It takes one to snow one
Snow White and the Huntsman is directed by Rupert Sanders (his directorial debut) and stars Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, and Toby Jones. It is based on the German fairy tale "Snow White" by the Brothers Grimm.
Who would have thunk that the year 2012 would bring us not one, but two, Snow White films? Not only that, but the two films would be almost complete opposites in terms of tone, one being the aesthetically-obsessed, comedy-driven Mirror Mirror, while the other was the darker, more dramatically ambitious Snow White and the Huntsman? My understanding is that both films were not overly successful at what they were trying to do, though with Mirror Mirror ending up with a nearly $200 million worldwide gross and Snow White and the Huntsman bringing in nearly $400 million worldwide, I suppose that general audiences were accepting of what was given to them. After all, nearly everyone is aware of the general Snow White fairy tale, especially because of how Disney did their own take on the fairy tale way back in 1937 with Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, their first feature length animated film might I add. But since someone keeps feeling the need to give fairy tales and romantic-driven stories a darker twist (if the story wasn't dark enough on its own), a more mature Snow White story was likely inevitable, and that's exactly what we get in Snow White and the Huntsman.
The talent and production design is there for Snow White and the Huntsman to succeed, and I was a little surprised to find out that I enjoyed the film more than I probably should have. I understand having Kristen Stewart as your lead character is automatically a punch to the gut for your optimism- and I do have some slightly unkind things to say about her in this movie- but Charlize Theron is here to bandage and tend to your optimism, because how could you not be the least bit interested when you have a terrific actress like Charlize Theron as your villain?
The film begins like this: Queen Eleanor (Liberty Ross) admires a rose blooming during the winter season, and she pricks her finger on of the thorns, causing three drops of blood to fall on the ground. The Queen wishes to have a daughter who is as white as snow, with blood-red lips, hair as black as raven's wings, and a heart that is as strong and defiant as the rose. Her wish is granted when she gives birth to a daughter that is given the name of Snow White. However, the Queen falls ill and dies, leaving Snow White's father, King Magnus (Noah Huntley), heartbroken. The King and his army battle the invading Dark Army of glass soldiers, and discover a prisoner named Ravenna (Charlize Theron). The King is enchanted by Ravenna's beauty, and he takes her as his new wife shortly after rescuing her.
It turns out though, Ravenna is a wicked and powerful sorceress who is actually the leader of the Dark Army, and on her wedding night, she kills Magnus in his bed. The Dark Army invades the kingdom, and the young Snow White is captured and imprisoned in one of castle's high towers for many years. The kingdom becomes a dark and depressing ruin under Ravenna's rule, as she frequently drains the youth out of all of the young women in the kingdom, in order to maintain her youthful beauty. Ravenna learns from her Magic Mirror (Chris Obi) that Snow White is destined to end her reign, unless Ravenna consumes Snow White's heart, making Ravenna immortal. Ravenna sends her brother Finn (Sam Spruelli) to retrieve Snow White, but Snow White is able to escape and flee into the Dark Forest, a place where Ravenna's power is useless. Ravenna strikes a deal with Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), telling him that if he is able to capture Snow White, she will bring his deceased wife back to life.
- The best thing to be found in Snow White and the Huntsman is its production design. The film shows an impressive visual outlook that looks like something that Tim Burton got his hands on for a few weeks, and Rupert Sanders decided, "Splendid! Let's keep it!" Whether it's the gloomy, color-deprived Dark Forest or a glossy fairy sanctuary that Snow White and her companions travel through, the movie never fails to look nice.
- Snow White and the Huntsman also brings admirable action sequences, particularly the invasion on Ravenna's castle, in which Snow White and her army must traverse a beach while avoiding fireballs and arrows. The entire sequence is like something you'll find out of one of Game of Thrones' better episodes, because, despite there being a lot of human bodies clumped together, you still have a completely clear picture of who is who and what is happening. The editing is a little jerky during the one-on-one fights that happen earlier in the movie, but the large-scale action sequences that we get are enough to make us forget whatever we didn't like about watching Chris Hemsworth beat up some of Ravenna's fighters.
- So, yes, Kristen Stewart appears to be the elephant in the room when it comes to discussing where Snow White and the Huntsman goes wrong. For one, the movie pits her character in the midst of a love triangle, with the Huntsman falling for Snow White, as well as a man named William (Sam Claflin), who was forced to leave Snow White behind on the night when Ravenna took over the kingdom. Fear not, my good friend, for a love triangle is about the only painful Twilight reminder we get here, although it may as well be the worst kind of reminder.
Anyway, the low point is that Snow White is a fairly empty character, and Stewart doesn't go out of her way to fill in the space that the screenplay by writers Evan Daughtery, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini doesn't fill in. The moment that it truly hit me just how un-developed of a character this Snow White is came when she is giving a rallying speech to the army that follows her into mounting the siege on Ravenna's castle. For starters, Kristen Stewart continued to show that she is able to display emotion as well as a stone block, but the real kicker was how everyone kneels before her, and this is where I asked myself, "What has she done to immediately become the leader of this army?" To answer my own question, it is because Snow White had just awoken from her seemingly endless sleep, and everyone now recognizes that she is the chosen one that will lead them to victory. Who needs any further characterization, right?
So pretty much anything and everything that is problematic with Snow White and the Huntsman stems from Snow White herself and how she is portrayed on screen. I can see where some die hard Snow White fans can get upset in regards to the overall screenplay and the pacing, because of course there's some deviation from the source material, and the movie can seem as if it stalls at times, seeming as if it's going nowhere for elongated stretches. I didn't find myself bothered enough by either so as to consider either the overall screenplay or the pacing a low point, though I'm not sure if that speaks on if I'm just being too nice towards the movie. Whatever it is, Snow White and the Huntsman is a satisfactory dark fantasy film with arresting visuals and enough successful action sequences to make up for the other areas that the film falls short of. Even if you hate Kristen Stewart with a burning passion, there's plenty here to make your viewing experience not so terrible.
Recommend? Yes, if you are able to tolerate Kristen Stewart. Otherwise, I probably wouldn't recommend.
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