Snow White and the Huntsman

As a fresh retelling of the classic fairytale, Snow White and the Huntsman misses a few beats due to its uninspiring lead characters.

As one of the most cinematically adapted fairy tales, it is no surprise that 2012 has three contrasting versions of the same story. While there is absolutely no point discussing the third and B movie version of Snow White (ironically starring Eric Roberts), it all comes down to a showdown between Tarsem Singh’s comic version and debut director Rupert Sanders’ dark, gritty and grim version (excuse the pun). Even so, there is little comparison between the two as both films are totally different in every aspect of their making.

Narrated by the titled huntsman, the story begins like any other Snow White adaptation. Snow White, the precious daughter of Queen Eleanor and King Magnus, has lips red as blood, skin white as snow and hair black as night – making her the fairest in the land. The story takes a dark turn after the Queen passes away and the king marries again. The marriage is short-lived when the king is murdered by his new bride, a sorceress calling herself Ravenna (Charlize Theron), whose magical mirror promptly announces her seizure of yet another kingdom, while also confirming her beauty par none. Years later, this delusion is shattered when Queen Ravenna is told that her beauty and powers are fading and can only be replenished, albeit infinitely, by consuming the heart of Snow White (Kristen Stewart). The new queen deploys huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth) to capture and bring back Snow White, thus begins an epic yet enchanting tale with a fresh new twist to a classic old yarn.

Clearly, there is a whole world residing between the recent and lighter version titled Mirror Mirror , and this darker and often brutal narration. Although contrasting in nature, both films are inspired by the same fairytale but share a common thread – prominence given to the false queen by way of her destructive presence in an otherwise prosperous and happy kingdom. While Julia Roberts’ characterization results in consistent levels of slapstick comedy, Charlize Theron brings out the queen’s evil essence; at least in theory. This is exactly why Snow White and the Huntsman differs from all other adaptions thus far. By its nature and making, this latest version is evidently not for 10-year-olds and below, and is nowhere near in narration or presentation to the 1937 animated classic. Thanks to screenwriters John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) and Evan Daugherty, the story here is captivating with first-time director Sanders giving it a visual appeal complete with generous CGI and befitting atmosphere. This is every bit the ambitious summer blockbuster with epic scaled battles, sweeping cinematography and costumes that form a detailed throwback to earlier adaptations of this story. For want of an unchartered path, there is also a twist to the original concept, in addition to minor alterations like the inclusion of mythical beasts, pixies and an extra dwarf.

So why the average rating? As I mentioned before, the story, its fresh new concept, and overall production quality makes this film a worthy crowd puller, but only in theory. In my opinion, the flaws in this film are the choice of cast and the lack of feverish intensity from said cast. Theron is a sight to behold and a phenomenal actress with a pedigree for critically acclaimed roles. Yet given the overall darkness of this film and the brutal nature of her character, Theron has somehow failed to live up to her expected prowess by not injecting enough malevolence into her queen Ravenna. Instead, there is a pro-feminist message that is uniquely Theron but mismatched for the role at hand. Another mismatch is Stewart as Snow White. Yes, given the premise, Stewart fits the bill as ‘the fairest of them all’, with a welcome departure from the indecisive Bella Swan of the Twilight series. But armed to the teeth, Stewart lacks the heart, soul and burning rage of a warrior princess and sole heir to the throne, let alone avenging her father’s murder. On the other hand, Hemsworth is the silver lining with almost single-handed efforts that holds the story together. Although this is his third appearance for 2012, this is could be his best role with the most screen time so far. Coming back to Sanders and I appreciate the overall visual quality of the world he has created in keeping with an action-fantasy epic. Pacing and editing appears to be his oversight, but as a rookie director there is definitely a lot of promise as this film stands shoulder to shoulder with some of 2012’s big summer titles.

Rating: ★★½☆☆


About Lloyd Bayer

Besides his passion for travelling, photography and scuba diving, Lloyd is a prolific film critic having contributed hundreds of film reviews to web and print journals, including IMDb and local daily Khaleej Times.