Is it possible to applaud and cringe at the same time? Can one movie really be so divided? Well, Snow White and the Huntsman proves that you can have a wonderful awful movie. It’s been a while since I’ve been excited about seeing a “dark gritty reboot” of a fairy tale, so even though all indications were that this movie was going to be great, I went in with subdued expectations. How good could Kirsten Stewart really be? This retelling of Snow White delivered in all the areas I expected it to, including excelling with some of the best production design I’ve seen in a long time.
The story itself is pretty basic – a good and kind princess and her kingdom are set upon an evil queen, and the princess must battle for her life and that of the kingdom. We get all of the Snow White elements, including the poisoned apple, the dwarves (thought not seven), a Prince’s kiss to break the spell (a nice twist in this version) and the definition-of-evil in a superb performance by Charlize Theron. After a brief introduction to all of the characters and the state of the kingdom, we see Queen Ravenna (Theron) firmly on the throne and looking for a way to bolster her waning food supply of beautiful young women. Ravenna learns that Snow White’s heart is the ultimate cure to her waning magic and beauty. We’re not quite sure if the usurper Queen is mad, but her magic seems to be real enough, and she has employed a drunkard of a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to bring her her prize. It’s off on a merry cat-and-mouse chase, with the Huntsman changing sides and Ravenna’s brother leading the search for Snow White. There’s an epic battle at the end and we all know how it turns out (I won’t bother boring you with the details) and they live “happily ever-after” or something like it.
The story is solid, we get interesting interpretations of the old tale and interesting new elements, like entering into the land of fairy and meeting the white heart. It was paced well and there was never a lull in the action, though the backstory in the beginning could have been edited down a bit. What really stood out in this film where the performances and the production design. First there was the production. The costumes, animal and human, were beyond compare. The dress Ravenna gets married in was a feat of architecture. Ravenna diving into the room as a flock of crows, splatting into a pit of black tar and then crawling out it is not an image easily forgotten. Yes, we got our prerequisite “Lord of the Rings helicopter shot” but we also got a beautiful shot of Snow White fleeing across the countryside in silhouette, which showed real composition and design.
Secondly, we have the performances. Charlize Theron’s Ravenna was talked about even before the movie opened. The marketing department fairly drove people to the theaters on the few clips they gave to us in the previews. She does not disappoint in the rest of the movie. The only unfortunate part is that Ravenna is still a secondary character to Snow White and doesn’t get enough screen time for the power of her character. Chris Hemsworth also puts in his due. You feel genuine compassion for a character who just wants his wife back and he makes a complex enough love interest.
The sticking point comes with Kirsten Stewart. The poor girl just can’t seem to emote. I know there are feelings in there somewhere. Being the lead means that you have to lead the whole cast. The movie rests on you. I couldn’t even use my usual trick of just covering her face with my hand. She couldn’t seem to deliver her lines with any conviction either. It’s sad, really. She’s a pretty girl and I can see why people would like her. Just stay off my movie screen Stewart!
Overall, it’s a movie I would watch again. Who knows? Maybe they’ll reboot it in 2 years without Kirsten Stewart.
7 out of 10 Snow Whites