Snow White and the Huntsman Review
By Joe Lozito
Once upon a time, there was a fairytale about an evil Queen and a beautiful young princess named Snow White. The Queen was so vain that she wouldn't rest until she was the fairest of them all - at least in the eyes of her magical, and wildly opinionated, wall mirror. Her quest for supremacy put her at odds with the young Ms. White. Words were exchanged, poisoned apples eaten, and eventually (spoiler alert) good triumphed over evil, thanks to a kindly huntsman and about a half-dozen dwarfs. At least, that's the Brothers Grimm version.
The Snow White tale has taken many forms over the years - most notably the 1937 Disney animated classic - but perhaps none has been more ambitious than "Snow White and the Huntsman". Unlike the recent "Mirror Mirror", this retelling aims to strip the fairytale out of the story and ground it in a mythologically-rich reality, along the lines of "Lord of the Rings" or "Game of Thrones".
And so the film begins, as it must, with an extended voice-over. In a (presumably far, far away) kingdom, a Queen pricks her finger on a rose and wishes for a daughter. She gets her wish and all seems well until the Queen dies and the King shacks up with a shifty blonde replacement (Charlize Theron, biting into every line like a poison apple). This new, clearly evil, Queen quickly dispatches the King and takes the throne, locking the young Snow White in the tower. Time passes and Snow White grows into Kristen Stewart, whose beauty, apparently, threatens the Queen's power.
There's a lot more. We haven't even gotten to the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), the dark forest, the fairies, or the dwarves yet. It's a lot of story. Too much, in fact. The two-hour running time sags as our heroes traipse through random landscapes of varying climates. Newbie director Rupert Sanders takes his time with the ambitious script - by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini - treating it as sacred text. It could have used some trimming. A confrontation with a CGI troll, in particular, is a bit too "Clash of the Titans".
The production design is excellent, particularly the trippy scenes in the enchanted forest, in which every speck of dirt seems alive. Even the mirror on the wall is not content to speak, it must melt and morph into an ominous cloaked figure. Ms. Theron makes a deliciously evil villain. She delivers "mirror mirror on the wall" as if it's "to be or not to be". And Mr. Hemsworth, unshackled from the bonds of "Thor", seems to be having a blast as the scruffy Han Solo of the movie. The dwarfs are a fun group as well, but they arrive too late to make much of an impression (no mention is made of their famous characteristics, though it would have helped tell them apart).
In fact, everything surrounding Snow White herself is pretty great and would seem to indicate that this could have been a better movie. If only there was a heroine worth supporting. Delivering each line like Bella Swan at a Medieval Times restaurant, Ms. Stewart again falls back on her two expressions: annoyed and tired. The film aims to make Snow White a Joan of Arc character, but they may have picked the wrong fairytale for Ms. Stewart to embody. She might have been better as Sleeping Beauty.