Film Review – Snow White and the Huntsman
Movie clusters are a bizarre phenomenon. That two studios would execute similar ideas at the same time speaks to the quirkiness of Hollywood. Usually one film ends up being much stronger than the other, but sometimes both are bad. The latest example of this in action is Snow White and the Huntsman, which is an improvement over Mirror Mirror, but is also not great.
The story follows Snow White (Kristen Stewart), who has been imprisoned for years by the wicked queen, Ravenna (Charlize Theron). After she escapes, the queen dispatches The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) after her to bring her back, in hopes of using her to gain immortality. At the same time, Snow White attempts to remove the queen and return the kingdom back to past glories.
Snow White is one of those stories that changes dramatically with every incarnation. The original Brothers Grimm story is a much darker take in comparison to the Disney version that came out in 1937, and even that was pretty dark for a cartoon. Despite all of the differences, all of the stories seem to have these same basic plot beats: evil queen wants Snow White dead; a huntsman helps Snow White escape; Snow White meets some dwarves; the queen tries to kill Snow White with an apple; the queen loses. Beyond that, there seems to be a wide range in the size of the roles of Snow White, the Evil Queen, the Huntman, and the dwarves. It kind of reminds of Rashomon…as if the same story is being told from a different person’s perspective each time.
This incarnation, from newcomer director Rupert Sanders, is probably the most epic take on the story, as he turns it into an action movie. It is hard to know much about him since he essentially has no filmography, but I understand him to have worked in the video game industry. Stylistically, the film lines up with that. One of the intriguing elements tackled during the movie is the issue of magic vs. illusion. As Snow White attempts to escape through the forest, it becomes clear that the she is imagining creatures around her as the forest plays upon her fear. Similarly, the film raises the question of whether the Queen’s interactions with the mirror are really happening or simply a figment of her madness. Don’t get me wrong, there is plenty of magic occurring in the movie (shape-shifting and what not), but it is much more grounded in reality than I had imagined it would be.
For being the titular characters, Stewart and Hemsworth are fine, but for the most part unremarkable. Hemsworth essentially is playing a version of Thor (which I’m totally cool with). He is entertaining, but I wish they had explored his character’s backstory more than simply glossing over it. Stewart is certainly more enjoyable here than with her work in Twilight, as she is given a wider range of emotions, but the most notable part to me is that she seems to have the laying dead market cornered at this point.
I know I’m in the minority, but I enjoyed Charlize Theron in the film. Sure, she certainly was playing her character over the top, but that it part of what I like about it—she went all in. I also like that they gave the wicked queen more pathos, giving her a reason behind her obsession with vanity through a backstory that seemed fitting. (Side note: Freud would’ve had a field day with her.) One of the major things that brings her down, though, is her relationship with her brother Finn (Sam Spruell), who is so distracting visually that it makes him hard to take seriously. Left to her own devices, Theron is much more fun.
The real treasures of the film, though, are the dwarves, who steal any of the scenes they are in. Their roles are played by the likes of Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost, Toby Jones…it is a stacked group of actors, but at the end of the day my favorite was Gus (Brian Gleeson), who proved to be the heart of the group. It is hard to watch the scenes of them singing around a fire and not get excited about The Hobbit, a film which is essentially taking a similar vibe, but making the dwarves the lead characters. Sadly, it takes about half of the story before they enter, and that is a problem.
To really enjoy this film, you should leave your logic at the door. There are lots of plot holes, such as why the queen keeps Snow White imprisoned for years after the death of her father—that was a bit of a mystery to me. As the film goes on, she discovers a reason, but for the first five to ten years, I don’t see the incentive to keep her around. Also, the story is quite similar to most action movies and takes breaks from the story to fit in a cool action sequence…Snow White and the Huntsman fighting against a troll is cool, but has essentially no impact on the story, and this is the reason the film clocks in at over two hours.
This film certainly isn’t going to do much for Snow White after the failure of Mirror Mirror; Disney has already put a halt to their upcoming Snow White project Order Of The Seven prior to the release of this film. But Snow White and the Huntsman was decent enough to be basic popcorn entertainment. Still, even though I enjoyed the movie overall, it isn’t going to displace Disney’s Snow White in my memory…and who ever remembers second place? If you are still intrigued, now is the time to see this film, as soon it will be just a distant memory.
Final Grade: C+