Review: Snow White and the Huntsman
PLOT: When her father the king is murdered by his new wife, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is imprisoned, until the day she comes of age, when the evil queen will devour her heart in order to keep her immortality. Snow escapes, only to be hunted down by The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth)- who's been forced into the Queen's service. Luckily for Snow, he has a change of heart, and, along with a group of eight dwarfs (rather than the traditional seven) and her childhood crush, William (Sam Claflin), they set off to destroy the kqueen and bring peace to the kingdom.
REVIEW: Just like the ads say, this ain't no fairytale. In fact, for the first half hour or so, it almost felt like I was watching a big screen version of GAME OF THRONES (right down to the incestuous, blond-haired, sibling villains), albeit one with far less sex and gore (damn). Certainly, SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN puts the grim back into the Brothers Grimm, and for the most part, I found this to be a highly entertaining fantasy adventure.
Of course, this version of SNOW WHITE has nothing at all to do with this spring's MIRROR, MIRROR- which I've yet to see (not that I have any desire to), or even the classic Disney cartoon. In fact, the only other version of Snow White that seems to have been some form of inspiration is a little known cable version from the nineties called SNOW WHITE: A TALE OF TERROR, which was even darker than this.
SW&TH certainly is a radical re-imaging, and a very successful one- or so it seemed to me sitting in a theatre full of cheering, clapping moviegoers. Running a shade over two hours, this takes it's time telling the story in an appropriately epic fashion, with a good chunk of time setting up Ravenna's rise to power (including a very LOTR-style battle with soldiers made of black glass), and Snow White's initial escape. The Huntsman doesn't even figure into the story until about half hour in, and the dwarfs until the film is half over, but to director Rupert Sanders credit, this isn't much of an issue.
As Ravenna, Charlize Theron (certainly the fairest of them all) seems to be having the time of her life chewing the scenery as the deliciously evil queen. Whether sucking the youth out of teenage beauties, or chewing the hearts out of black crows, Theron is terrific- although the sheer over-the-top way she devours the part may put off some. To me, this seemed just right. Director Sanders seems just as enthralled with Theron as we are, and for large parts of the movie she dominates it, and some of the imagery involving her character, including her emergence from a milk bath, and transformation into a flock of crows- is quite striking.
Meanwhile, Kristen Stewart makes an extremely likable Snow White, and while some have snarked at her getting the part, she once again proves that there's a lot more to her than TWILIGHT, and she perfectly embodies the purity that the character is supposed to radiate (although- this being 21st century fare, she kicks a bit of ass too).
Once he shows up, Chris Hemsworth also makes for a fine Huntsman. While Hemsworth initially seemed a little young to be playing the battle-weary, alcoholic Huntsman, he's able to play a lot older than he actually is. Differentiating the part from Thor, Hemsworth adopts a thick Scottish brogue, along with greasy hair and a beard, and (sorry ladies) manages to keep his shirt on most of the time. Hemsworth is kinda perfect in films like this, bringing an effective edge to the part, as well as doing nicely in the many action sequences. As Snow White's princely love-interest, Sam Claflin is game, although next to Theron, Stewart, and Hemsworth, his part seems a bit inconsequential and disposable.
As for the dwarfs, they come into the film an hour in, and bring some much needed comic relief to this dark fairy tale. Considering that they're played by a who's who of awesome English actors (including Toby Jones, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Eddie Marsan, and Bob Hoskins)- you can be sure that they steal the show once they're introduced, with each getting the time to make a nice impression. While they're far less merry than their animated counterparts, they bring some much needed wit to the proceedings, and also hit a nice melancholic note, with them being the last of their kind, that fits in well with the rest of the film.
Suffice to say, SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN really impressed me, and I'll admit that I'm not the easiest sell for fantasy films (I like the genre, but I like it done well- see GAME OF THRONES). But, the gritty vibe (matched by a thunderous musical score by James Newton Howard), the top-notch leads, and striking visuals left me plenty satisfied. And it's in good ol' 2D. Hooray!