Snow White and the Huntsman – Movie Review
Snow White and the Huntsman is no great fairy tale film, but it does succeed at providing a dark spin on the classic story.
75 years ago, Walt Disney Animation Studios released the first animated film in history, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Since that time, the classic Grimm Brothers fairy tale that that film is based on has been adapted and parodied countless times for many years, and now it seems that Hollywood is ready to take another snap at Snow White (actually, all fairy tales for that matter). The first attempt to revitalize interest in Snow White was made with the more light-hearted, family comedy rendition known as Mirror Mirror, which of course was not met with the warmest of love. On the opposite side of the coin, Universal Pictures continues to celebrate its 100th anniversary by releasing Snow White and the Huntsman: a dark, violent and “mature” take on the original tale. Under the pressure of immense hype, a star-studded cast, along with director Rupert Sanders making his film debut, can the dark version of Snow White possibly succeed where Mirror Mirror faltered?
Queen Eleanor and King Magnus are desirous to have a daughter possessing the strength of a winter’s rose, with lips red as blood and hair as black as night. One day, their wish comes true with a beautiful baby girl they name Snow White, who eventually grows up to be a sweet young woman who is the fairest in the land and has the kindest of hearts. Tragedy soon falls when the Queen dies, and soon the King is led into a war with the Dark Army, a mass of glass soldiers that unleash terror upon the kingdom. After defeating the Army, the King discovers a woman named Ravenna (Charlize Theron) who was imprisoned by said soldiers. Smitten by her unfathomable beauty, the King takes her to be his second wife, but on the night following the royal wedding, she unveils that she is a powerful (albeit extremely old) sorceress and murders him, thus seizing control of the throne. As Ravenna usurps the kingdom, Magnus’ most trusted knight Duke Hammond (Vincent Regan) and Prince William (the adult is played by Sam Claflin) try to help Snow White escape the castle, but they fail and Snow White is imprisoned in the north tower of the castle. Many long years pass, and the kingdom has lost much of its beauty and plant life, along with the hope of the people that populate it. Due to her immense age and waning power, Ravenna is forced to feed on the souls of young women to maintain her terrible power, beauty and youth. However, she soon learns the awful truth from the Magic Mirror (Christopher Obi Ogugua) that the matured Snow White (Kristen Stewart) has now become the most beautiful woman in all of the land (yes, even more so than Ravenna). The Magic Mirror then proceeds to tell Ravennathat if she consumes Snow White’s heart, she will become immortal; however, should she fail in this task, Snow White will have the power and virtue necessary to destroy her and take the kingdom from her. As expected, Ravenna sends her brother and protector Finn (Sam Spruell) to bring Snow White before her, but she escapes. To bring Snow White back and ensure that she will have eternal life, Ravenna sends a mournful but very powerful huntsman named Eric (Chris Hemsworth) to seek her out…
To be completely honest with you, I haven’t seen Mirror Mirror yet, so for this review I won’t compare that film with Snow White and the Huntsman. Instead, I guess I’ll compare this with an age-old classic: Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. To put it plainly, fanboys and girls of that film or the original Grimm Brothers tale will most likely be annoyed by this take on the original story. However, for people like me who appreciate fresh re-imaginings of classic stories, Snow White and the Huntsman is a welcome addition to the summer lineup. In my opinion, this rendition of Snow White is closer to how the Grimm Brothers would want their story to be, because their original versions of the tales they told were violent, dark and bloody, much like this. In that sense, I felt that the mood and pacing of Snow White and the Huntsman fit the narrative perfectly. One thing I always detested about Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs is that although it is still a great movie, Disney’s take on the story never was a great exploration of the characters; rather, it’s just a generic Disney Princess film (although it set the standard for animated films in the years that followed its release). This version is the polar opposite of that, for the writers at least tried to broaden the original story by developing reasonable backstories for the main characters. On the negative side, though, this attempt to explore the characters’ backgrounds leads into one of the film’s main flaws: uneven pacing. Oftentimes, the writers introduced ideas about the characters’ personalities (Ravenna in particular) that are never fully explored, which then leave some scenes in the film dissatisfying, also leaving the pace of Snow White and the Huntsman inconsistent. Also, some of the dialogue is strange and unclear, which leaves some parts of this film just plain confusing. When the pace of this film is fast and intense, though, the story is at its best. This is so because at its heart, Snow White and the Huntsman is a dark-themed, fantasy action film that tries to emulate the epic feel and style of The Lord of the Rings. Thankfully, much of the time is devoted to some very intense action, and this makes Snow White and the Huntsman more entertaining than it would have been otherwise. Nevertheless, the writers never forgot that this is also a retelling of the classic Grimm Brothers story in which characters matter, and as a result the journey that all of the characters take is a fun, refreshing and engaging one. More importantly, Snow White and the Huntsman stands on its own as a dark spin on the story that everyone knows (it’s predictable though, since many of the same elements from the original story are still here).
I think the question that is on everyone’s mind is whether or not Kristen Stewart can carry a film outside of the Twilight franchise, especially since she is infamous for her emotionless portrayal of Bella Swan in that particular series. Fortunately for her, she is surprisingly watchable in Snow White and the Huntsman! Yes, sometimes there is still that emotionless awkwardness when Kristen Stewart is on screen, but I felt that she definitely fit the role of Snow White much better than she did as Bella. This is somewhat due to the fact that the script is like Citizen Kane in comparison to Twilight, and since Kristen Stewart tends to play characters that are soft-spoken and tough, she of course embodies this version of Snow White. Oh, and did I mention that she actually smiles and laughs in this one? So yes, Kristen Stewart still isn’t a great actress, but at least her performance as Snow White shows some promise. Chris Hemsworth is also enjoyable to watch, although his performance is a slightly generic one (he represents the typical tough, drunkard archetype). Eh, maybe his performance as Eric feels a little bit generic since his similar work as Thor in The Avengers is still fresh on my mind, but even so, he is a decent co-star for Kristen Stewart. As I had expected though, the scene stealer in Snow White and the Huntsman is without a doubt Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna. She is undeniably over-the-top and dramatic in some scenes (especially with lines such as “Mirror, Mirror, on the wall…” and “I will give this wretched kingdom the queen it deserves”), but otherwise she is fantastic in this role. She gives dimension to the character she plays, her wicked behavior is disturbing but understandable and perfectly sinister, and overall it’s very interesting to see what she brings to this classic villain. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if Charlize Theron will eventually be remembered for this performance for the rest of her life. Another thing I should perhaps mention are the eight (no, not seven) dwarfs. Unlike Mirror Mirror in which actual midgets were cast in comedic roles, beloved and talented (and not to mention, average-sized) actors including Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone were digitally altered in post-production to appear like dwarfs (at least, I think that’s how this was done). Thankfully, all of them are great in their roles, although they don’t play as big of a role as they did in the classic Disney version. I suppose my main issue with the whole cast aside from my problems with the individual performances is that many of the accents are rather lame, because they can be off-putting when some of the actors (particularly Kristen Stewart) may attempt a British accent and then not use it later on. Nevertheless, it’s not exactly a movie-killing issue, for the cast delivers some good performances here.
Above possibly anything else, Snow White and the Huntsman is a gorgeous film. This film is the first that newcomer Rupert Sanders has directed, and the mere idea that someone would take on an ambitious project such as this one for their debut is impressive enough. From the trailers, we got an idea of the shady and gritty visual style that would become part of the final film, and Sanders managed to pull off delivering on the visual end with his great production crew. The cinematography is fantastic, visual effects are top notch (and used in moderation, which is always nice in an age of Hollywood that is heavily reliant on CGI), and production design is absolutely astounding. Makeup and costume design is fascinating because it matches the personality of the characters, especially when it comes to Charlize Theron (HOLY CRAP!). The musical score was composed by James Newton Howard, and although I don’t exactly remember any of the themes from Snow White and the Huntsman, they are surprisingly emotional and also happen to accent the intensity and brutality of the action quite well. As a whole, Snow White and the Huntsman is one beautifully shot film that has great production design and good music.
Despite my positive attitude throughout this review, I can’t deny that Snow White and the Huntsman is not a great film because it has some narrative inconsistencies, minor problems with the acting, a predictable story that doesn’t dramatically broaden upon the original tale, and fans of the Disney version may be annoyed by this film since the writers stripped the tale of much of the innocence and integrity that defined the classic Disney version. Even so, this dark take on the Grimm Brothers tale is surprisingly good as both a reimagined version of Snow White and a decent fantasy action film. With a fantastic visual style, exciting action scenes, a surprising improvement on Kristen Stewart’s part, and an outstanding performance from Charlize Theron, this film is good for some simple summer fun. As I said, the story doesn’t dramatically change the nature of the original Grimm Brothers fairy tale, but it should be commended for sticking with the dark mood they intended to establish and adding a new spin on the story we all grew up with. This ain’t no fairy tale, but this new take on Snow White is worth a look for moviegoers this summer; after all, this film didn’t leave a bad taste in my mouth unlike the poisoned apple that Snow White was tricked into eating.
Jason Bakker, Editor-in-Chief, Metal Arcade
I have to agree with Zach for the most part. If you’ve seen any of the trailers, the film stays true to that dark theme throughout (for the most part). Sometimes trailers make a movie out to be one thing just to get people in the theater, and the real film ends up feeling much different (see: Iron Man 2, Green Lantern, etc.) The fact that SWATH fully embraces the dark side is refreshing, and funnily enough, the darkest spots, quality-wise, of the film come from the bright pixie forest full of happy creatures (and creepy as f*** faeries)- a wholly extraneous, bloated sequence which slows the film to a crawl and serves no real purpose. The brightest spot may well be the twisted Dark Forest, with its spectacular CG monsters and haunting visual design. Hooray for irony! As for Kristen Stewart, yes, she’s ever so slightly less terrible than in Twilight, but when asked to add real emotional weight to a scene (in a facepalm-worthy “Battle Speech” scene near the end) the facade crumbles, and it’s a bit cringe worthy. Should have asked The Huntsman (a fantastic Chris Hemsworth) to do this scene or cut it out entirely. Hemsworth does a great job bringing a character to life who, quite honestly, is very two-dimensional and stereotypical on paper. Yes, he looks and sounds like Thor here (he is Thor, dammit!), but where Kristen overreaches in her dramatic scenes, Hemsworth underplays his lines with masterful subtlety mostly unheard of by actors with his limited experience. You can feel his sorrow for his deceased wife, and feel his rage boiling beneath the surface without him needing to beat you over the head with it. The beautiful Charlize Theron does a fantastic job as the Queen, and the film does a decent job justifying her sinister actions, although as Zach said her character’s backstory could have been more fleshed out. I can think of at least 5 or six scenes that could have been cut out entirely to make room for this. As it stands, Snow White and The Huntsman is a flawed, yet very watchable take on the old fable.
Jason’s Rating – 3.5/5