Not your Mother’s Snow White..by design
If calling the new “Snow White and the Huntsman” the best of the recent fairy tale adaptations sounds like faint praise then so be it. True, last year’s “Red Riding Hood” and the more recent “Mirror, Mirror” were nothing to write home about, making this new uneven entry a winner by default. This current take on the forlorn princess and the wicked queen whose vanity demands debauchery is dark, gloomy, and practically humorless, and aspires to Tolkien more than anything Walt Disney had in mind.
But that’s not a terrible ambition, and the film has some fancy imagery thanks to director Rupert Sanders and his television commercial background, skilled production designer Dominic Watkins, and stunning costumes from Oscar winner Colleen Attwood. The visuals are the stars here – much in the same way director Tarsem put his exotic stamp on “Mirror, Mirror.” But in storyline and character development, this “Snow White” is only slightly better than its previously released siblings.
Charlize Theron makes for a wickedly gorgeous queen who wants to remain the fairest of them all. After dispatching her husband the king, she banishes his daughter (Kristen Stewart) to a desolate cell in the castle. While the queen terrorizes her subjects and relishes sucking the life out of those who cross her path, the princess escapes into the forest. A Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth of “Thor”) is sent to capture her, but he changes his tune and decides to help the feisty young princess regain her rightful crown.
Another suitor surfaces, a rather boring childhood friend named William (Sam Claflin). The story hints at a love triangle but it is never really developed, and those hoping for some type of romantic closure will be sorely disappointed. Veteran actors are used for the dwarves – in this case eight of them – whose bodies are miniaturized by CGI. They are rarely funny and some may be angered that real little people weren’t utilized, considering how it may be decades until a film (or two) requiring dwarves is likely to be made.
Theron looks the part until her silly over-the-top, painfully slow delivery of dialogue diminishes most of her menace. Hemsworth grounds the proceedings and offers a believable combination of courage and compassion. As for Stewart, while she struggles with the strong female protagonist mantle, (see Jennifer Lawrence in “Hunger Games” for comparison) and one doubts many would ever consider her fairer than Theron by any measurement, she nonetheless seems more comfortable here than anything the “Twilight” films intimated.
The main reason to see “Snow White and the Huntsman” (on the big screen, especially) are the delicious, evocative production elements that include superfluous milk baths, a liquid gold mirror mannequin, murders of crows in symbolic patterns, and one mother of an ugly troll.
A final battle scene is workmanlike in execution and a left-open ending hints at a sequel that hardly seems necessary.
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action and brief sensuality.