The fairy tale of Snow White has been adapted to film and television several times over the years, most notably in Disney’s first animated feature Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. Snow White and the Huntsman marks the second time the story has hit the big screen this year alone (Mirror Mirror opened in theaters two months ago). Sure it may be better than Amanda Bynes‘ recent take on the character, but the latest version from director Rupert Sanders is a lavish affair that unfolds without an adequate supply of heart.
Our story opens with the birth of a young princess and the death of a Queen (Liberty Ross). The realm’s grief-stricken King (Noah Huntley) finds himself bewitched by the obviously evil Ravenna (Charlize Theron) who kills her husband on their wedding night and assumes the throne. Years later the princess, Snow White (Kristen Stewart), kept under lock and key for a decade, manages to escape the castle and begin a journey to free the realm from the witch’s power.
On the run, Snow White is able to win over the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) who is originally hired by the Queen’s brother (Sam Spruell) to track down the princess. Along with the reluctant woodsman, childhood friend William (Sam Claflin), and a rowdy group of dwarves (Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Johnny Harris, Eddie Marsan), the princess hopes to make it to a safe haven and rally the people to overthrow the Queen and take back her father’s kingdom.
The biggest problem with Snow White and the Huntsman is it can never decide how fervently to embrace the fairy tale. Sure it gives us a witch, a curse, fairies, and a magic mirror, but it also gives us siege warfare, the burning of villages, attempted rape, suggested incest, and an inconsistent look that is dirty, pristine, or bloody, depending on what each scene may call for.
There are fleeting moments, such as Snow White’s arrival into the magical realm of the fairies, where the film struggles to give us a few fleeting moments of magic, but it can’t sustain them in what comes off as overlong, brooding tale that’s not nearly as engaging as it hopes to be. The movie certainly earns it’s PG-13 rating and the young kids in the audience (at least those seated near me) were quite uncomfortable with the more gruesome and violent sequences of the film.
There are a few points of interest including how the film weaves in various aspects of the fairly tale (including the poison apple, early in the movie). The film also gives us an interesting idea of why animals seem to respond, almost talk, to the princess. And although the film opens up the idea of a love triangle between Snow White, the Huntsman, and William, it thankfully ends without having to directly address it, and it’s inevitable fallout.
Stewart proves to be well-cast as the lead and the choice of casting for the dwarves is certainly amusing, and their inclusion livens things up in spots where the story otherwise slows down to a crawl. And Theron, although she’s not given anything terribly interesting to do, works well as the film’s villain.
There are also a few head-scratchers. The script borrows (that’s Hollywood slang for steals) the idea from John Boorman‘s Excalibur of a king, or here a princess, being tied directly to the prosperity of the land. It also chooses the character with the thickest accent to narrate the opening and introduces us to Hemsworth in a sequence where he’s blitzed out of his mind and barely intelligible.
As a side note, it’s also interesting to note that Snow White is never addressed directly by her name. Sure, others use her name when discussing her, but she is only ever addressed directly as princess. I’m not sure the reason for this other than the fact that maybe the filmmakers thought addressing a young woman directly as Snow White was rather silly.
If remembered for anything at all, other than the performances of the two female leads, Snow White and the Huntsman may be looked back on for it’s impressive special effects sequences. Sadly, almost all of the effects done for the film are used merely the sake of showing off and not in any way to move the story forward. Many of these sequences don’t even make sense (such as Theron’s early bath/immersion sequence).
Snow White and the Huntsman, despite several impressive effects and some good acting throughout, can’t overcome a tale that’s stretched too thin at more than two hours, questionable direction, and an unimaginative script that doesn’t take advantage of the strengths the movie brings to the table. It’s so much a poison apple as it is forgettable, easily dismissible, and not worth too much of your time.