Directed by: Rupert Sanders.
Written by: Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini.
Starring: Kristen Stewart (Snow White), Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman), Charlize Theron (Ravenna), Sam Claflin (William), Sam Spruell (Finn), Ian McShane (Beith), Bob Hoskins (Muir), Ray Winstone (Gort), Nick Frost (Nion), Eddie Marsan (Duir), Toby Jones (Coll), Johnny Harris (Quert), Brian Gleeson (Gus), Vincent Regan (Duke Hammond), Noah Huntley (King Magnus), Liberty Ross (Queen Eleanor), Christopher Obi (Mirror Man), Lily Cole (Greta).
No matter what flaws you find in Snow White and the Huntsman, and there are at least a few in the movie, you have to admit – the film looks amazing. First time director Rupert Sanders has crafted one of the visually stunning films of the year. The cinematography, art direction and costume design, married with terrific visual effects means that even when the story lulls – and it does lull – you always have something interesting to look at.
Unlike Mirror, Mirror from earlier this year, which was also a new take on the Snow White story, Snow White and Huntsman does not go for the jokey, Shrek-like tone, but goes much, much darker. The Snow White story has always been about sex, death and female vanity – even singing dwarves couldn’t mask it completely in the Disney version from 1937. It is a fairy tale, but like most fairy tales there are dark undertones to the story, which this version brings to the forefront. The movie opens with the setup we know all too well – the brave, beautiful Queen giving birth to the popular, beautiful Princess Snow White – and when the Queen dies, the grief stricken King gets taken in by another beautiful woman – who he quickly marries, and then dies, leaving the evil woman in charge. Snow White is locked away in a tower – until she escapes in the Dark Forest. The Queen sends a huntsman out into the forest to kill Snow White, and bring back her organs – in this version because she needs to eat the heart of the young and beautiful to maintain her own beauty. But the huntsman cannot bring himself to kill her.
Snow White and the Huntsman is proof that there are many ways to tell the same story. Writers Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini bring the darkness that was always in the story to the forefront – not afraid of being scary, creepy or violent, and Sanders goes right along with them. Yes, this is still Snow White, but it’s not really a kid’s movie – the film is dripping with sexuality and violence. The film uses a lot of CGI throughout, but it never takes over the movie as a whole – they are used in conjunction with the story. There are a lot of visuals you could praise – but the best one may be the magic mirror, where it’s not a reflection, but a liquid, mirror man who slithers out of the mirror to talk to the evil Queen, which is one of the creepiest things I have seen in recent memory. Sanders does need to work on pacing however – the movie bogs down quite a bit in the second act as the Huntsman and Snow White wander through the forest (the dwarves show up surprisingly late in the film). The ending of the film isn’t quite as exciting as you would like either – but they may just be because the movie, of course, does have to follow a set formula.
As for the performances, for the most part they work. Charlize Theron delivers yet another brilliantperformance as the snarling, evil, cruel, egomaniacal yet insecure Queen. You need a truly evil Queen to make the movie work, and Theron delivers. I also really liked all of the dwarves – most of whom are fairly famous actors – Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, who of course are not that little, but the special effects used to make them appear so are flawless. They aren’t given a lot to do, but they do their job well. Which brings us to the title characters – Chris Hemsworth, best known as Thor, plays the Huntsman, and he’s the sort of square jawed hero you expect in a movie like this. Yes, the movie tries to give him some depth – grieving widower, drunk – but he’s still in action hero mode for most of the film – and he does that well. As for Kirsten Stewart the Twilight saga remains the best and worst thing that has ever happened to her. It has made her into a major movie star, but has also forced this actress, who before Twilight I thought of as a talented up and comer, and forced her into a ridiculous franchise, with a passive, irrational character. Yet, she is still the best part about that awful franchise – but it does work against her, somewhat, here. Her Snow White seems a little too passive for much of the movie – so when she has to become a “leader” in the end, it doesn’t quite work. She’s good in the film, but perhaps an actress without the baggage she has would have been a better choice. I do look forward to seeing her after Twilight ends – to see what the next act of her career has in store for her.
So yes, Snow White and the Huntsman has some flaws in it. And yet, I was never bored by the film – and I always engaged. The problem in telling a story as well-known as Snow White is that there really is no way to surprise an audience – all you can do is try and find a different way of telling it. And Snow White and the Huntsman does just that.