Review: Snow White & The Huntsman

This year’s second adaptation of the Snow White fairy tale hit the cinemas this week and, rather than the camp Julia Roberts led Mirror, MirrorSnow White & The Huntsman is a darker take on the classic tale. If you’re expecting bright colours and sing-alongs with a cute girl and her seven small friends you’re in for a shock. This in no way resembles the 1937 Disney version.

Well, actually the story is fairly close, in that Snow White is the object of jealousy by the evil queen and there are seven dwarfs, though instead of names like Doc, Sneezy and Grumpy they have names like Duir, Muir and Gort. There are all the metaphors of lost innocence (forbidden/poisoned apples) as well as the moral message that jealousy is ugly and all-consuming. This retelling is a much darker and fantastical version than any we’ve seen before.

We are shown the story of a king and queen who have a daughter called Snow White and we are told of the queen’s passing and the consequent remarriage of the king to a woman he rescued from a magical army. His new queen, Ravenna (Charlize Theron), murders him on their wedding night and takes over the kingdom and swiftly imprisons Snow White. Over many years the kingdom falls into ruin, even  nature kills itself, rather than live under Ravenna’s rule.

Many years later Ravenna is running out of young women to suck the life out of to keep herself young and powerful that she consults with her magic mirror once more. The mirror is one of the most visually impressive things in the film as it cascades from the wall to form a molten-gold human shape in front of the queen with the deepest baritone since Darth Vader. It tells her that the way to break the aging spell she has been put under is to cut out the heart of Snow White (now played by Kristen Stewart).

Ravenna sends her servant of a brother, Finn (Sam Spruell), to bring Snow White to her, but she is ready for him and slashes his face with a nail she pulled from the wall. She escapes the castle and is pursued into a malevolent enchanted forest full of plants that shoot hallucinogens into the air and trees that grab at her as she stumbles deeper, away from Finn and his men. When Finn returns empty-handed he is ordered to find someone who knows the woods to go and capture her. Cue Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman.

The Huntsman goes after Snow White and return for Ravenna promises to bring his wife back from the dead, though Finn lets it slip that she can’t just as they find the young princess.  On this news The Huntsman decides to spare the girl, he kills the guards and leaves Finn in a huge cloud of hallucinogenic spores. Finally, after all that exposition, we get to Snow White and The Huntsman forming a begrudging alliance over a lot of walking and mild peril.

What I will say about this film, if you haven’t already worked it out, is that it’s a bit long-winded. But once you get past this first half hour or so and things can slow down a bit there is a pay off; the dwarves appear from the undergrowth and provide some much-needed comic relief, though it does feel slightly out of keeping with the tone of the film at times. For example, Ray Winstone’s character manages to slip in two or three jokes about poo, which seems a bit childish for such a po-faced script. Nevertheless, I could have watched a film about the dwarves for a couple of hours and not been bored. The effects used to miniaturise actors like Winstone, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost, Danny Marsden, Toby Jones et al is amazing, even though you’ve seen it done in Lord Of The Rings, the effects here just look better.

The special effects and design department are really what make this film, when the dwarves lead Snow White and The Huntsman into The Fairy’s Sanctuary which, compared to the rest of the dead world outside is vivid and full of life. It is also just about the most beautiful environment I’ve seen on film since Pandora in Avatar. The effects used in Ravenna’s transformations from old to young and her ability to turn into a flock of crows as well as the design for the troll that actually is part of the bridge are also breathtakingly good.

But all this visual spectacle can’t quite make up for the flaws on show here.For a start, Chris Hemsworth’s Scottish accent isn’t the best, but at least it doesn’t wander across the globe like Russell Crowe’s accent in Robin Hood! He also outshines the proper love interest,  the rather wet William (Sam Claflin), and as such steals the show from him (and the eye of Kristen Stewart at times too). His role as narrator never is never picked up again at the end of the film to tie up the narrative, which poses the question, why bother having a narrator in the first place?

Charlize Theron overacts as if her life depended on it, screaming for dramatic effect, but just coming across as brattish as opposed to scary. In contrast I didn’t believe in the strength, both physically and in character of Snow White. She is supposed to encourage the respect and devotion of a nation, but she just seems a bit desperate and whine-y…but the what do you expect when you cast the pouty girl from the Twilight films? And, as for being the fairest of the all? Give me a break!

In the end, this film turned out to be a mish mash of other films: Alice In Wonderland, Lord Of The Rings, Robin Hood, Gladiator to name but a few. The thing is, that all those films are great in their own right, but when put together in the way they are in this film it all adds up to an unforgettable cinematic experience, with only touches of brilliance (the Sanctuary scene and perhaps Charlize Theron emerging from a bath of a thick milky substance!) and no real stand out performances.

I’d rather watch Thor and the Dwarves for two hours.

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10 Responses to “Review: Snow White & The Huntsman”

  1. I watched Snow White and the Huntsman today and I agree with you about Charlize Theron overacting and also with Chris Hemsworth stealing the show completely with his performance. However, I enjoyed the character of William and thought that Sam Claflin put in a very good performance (though why he was marketed as the Prince when he is not a Prince in the slightest is beyond me). I also was not fond of the dwarves and I don’t think they impacted the film in any way whatsoever.
    Snow White and the Huntsman, though, is very very beautiful in terms of its visuals, the effects are magnificent.

    • The effects are great, I just felt there was something lacking. Perhaps it was the script, perhaps it was the director not getting what he needed to from his cast, or maybe it was just the directing in general, I’m not sure. But it could have been so much better than it ended up being. I enjoyed the parts with the dwarves, but their comedy performances didn’t really gel well with the tone of the film. I think I’d watch it if I stumbled across it on TV, but I don’t think the effects alone are worth buying it on Blu-Ray for.

  2. Theron seemed pitch-perfect to me; she is an enraged evil queen, after all. Nice review!

  3. I agree with you totally. I thought for me that it was a complete waste of time. I understand the LOTR, Alice in wonderland etc mash up, and instead of sitting there, I think another watching of Lord of the Rings would be more entertaining then what this movie was.

    • It was all surface, nice and shiny looking – but with nowhere near the substance that it could have had, expecially with all the talent involved in front and behind the camera.

  4. Would it be odd to say I found it rather boring? I think the producers were just hoping that the success of the movie would be because of the people in it and that’s what would bring people through the doors. It really irritated me because a lot of people were exclaiming how amazing this movie so I actually went to watch it. Big load of bogs-wallop that was.

    • Yeah, true. I thought Chris Hemsworth was pretty good, but tha was about it. Kristen Stewart was awful and there were parts in it that dragged. It was the worst parts of LOTR and Alice In Wonderland for me.

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