Movie review: 'Snow White and the Huntsman' is all beauty with little substance
Rating: 2 out of 5 stars
Genre: Action, Adventure, Drama
Run Time: 2 hours 7 minutes, Rated PG-13
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Spruell, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson
Directed by Rupert Sanders (feature-film debut)
Opens locally Friday, June 1st, 2012
It's better than the other Snow White film this year (the campy Julia Roberts comedy, Mirror, Mirror), and it is an entirely different take on the classic fairy tale. But Snow White and the Huntsman spends most of its time stuck in a lifeless sleep, with no kiss being powerful enough to awake it.
Snow White (Kristen Stewart, who plays a scared heroine like no other) is born the only daughter to a king, but the Evil Queen - played by Charlize Theron, and who is given the name Ravenna this time around - swoops in and kills him, taking his throne. You know the rest, yadda, yadda, who is the fairest of them all, yadda, yadda, poisonous apple and so forth.
But there are plenty of new twists mixed into this telling of the tale. Chris Hemsworth is The Huntsman, who is assigned to help find Snow White once she escapes from the Evil Queen but ends up falling in love with her. Because Kristen Stewart simply can't exist without being part of a love triangle, there is also William (Sam Claflin), Snow White's childhood playmate who ends up being in the mix.
Which one is her Prince Charming? You should be able to guess. And despite how the movie is being promoted, there is most definitely seven dwarves that turn up...actually eight to be exact.
Snow White and the Huntsman is perhaps the most gritty and realistic version ever put on screen, and carries with this realism some deeply religious undertone. Snow White says an Our Father, and she carries herself almost with a Jesus-like poise. The dwarves could be substituted with apostles, and her "deep sleep" portion of the legend is treated much more like the death and resurrection. Not since October Baby has there been a more blatant Christian message on screen - and there's nothing wrong with that - but the real world religion pulls us right out of this fantasy realm.
But there must have been a great vision for this film, resulting in fantastical visual splendor. There are great effects, great make-up, and well-known actors such as Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Nick Frost and Ray Winstone are reduced to pint-sized dwarves without a glitch. There is death and destruction everywhere, not an expected result going into a Snow White film. Yes some folks even die along the way. Remember when I mentioned that eighth dwarf?
If only the visuals had been matched with some other important elements. The script is about as bland as you can get, and there is something that just drags. The Evil Queen in this film keeps her youth by sucking the life out of others, but somewhere along the way she must have sucked every last drop of life from the story.
Charlize Theron is pretty imposing as Ravenna, and it's all in her eyes. Yet her motivations as a character make little sense. There is much that makes little to no sense at all, as if we are just supposed to munch our popcorn and be entertained without noticing the inconsistencies and implausibility of what we are seeing. We did pay to see a film about Snow White after all, what's all this bickering about plot and story?
Beautiful as Kristen Stewart is, it's time to move out of Bella territory and into a role that doesn't require others to save her. Even as she dons armor and rides into battle during the film's climactic scene, it isn't really earned.
There's only so much you can do with this fairy tale, and kudos to director Rupert Sanders for trying something stylized and unique. But at its core, Snow White and the Huntsman is just lacking bite.
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