Snow White and the Huntsman is little more than a fair fairy tale
It may not be summer yet, but Snow White takes to the screen for a second time in 2012 in director Rupert Sanders’ debut film Snow White and the Huntsman. This time, with Kristen Stewart as the oppressed princess, Charlize Theron’s evil queen Ravenna looks to secure her grasp on her kingdom and the title of fairest of them all. Of course, no Snow White adaptation would be complete without dwarfs and a plethora of British talent from Nick Frost to Bob Hoskins is on board to fill their tiny shoes.
Entrusted with a rumoured $100 million budget, Sanders makes an ambitious jump from helming commercials to a major Hollywood release. The results are hit and miss and betray the fact that putting together a 130 minute film is a very different animal to 30-60 second spots. From a casting perspective, Sanders has done well with strategically casting Stewart as the lead heroine. She may not be worthy enough to shine Jennifer Lawrence’s bow, but Stewart’s presence will bring box office numbers from the Twilight obsessives. Meanwhile, Chris Hemsworth is riding a wave of momentum from his portrayal of Marvel’s Thor and provides the Hunstman with the “it factor” to appeal to the manlier demographic. Not to be overlooked is Oscar-winner Theron who sinks her teeth into the role of the wicked queen; fleshing out a vengeful, crazed feminist slant. Theron’s is the most compelling character here, with clear motivations and a tragic back-story whilst wielding some impressive sorcery skills. Set in gorgeous surrounds and employing impressive CG, the stage is set for a fun, thrill-filled ride yet Snow White and the Huntsman never rises above being… well… fair.
Part of Snow White and the Huntsman’s problem is that it is too long and too uneven. Sanders and a writing team of four (including Hossein Amini) attempt to pack too much into the narrative and lose any specific tone in the process. Part medieval war-story, part fairy tale, SWATH takes a serious approach that is undermined by the comical appearance of the dwarfs, many of whom look completely ridiculous (it may be impossible to ever find Ray Winstone intimidating again). The restrained romantic angle is certainly commendable, though. Meanwhile, Theron’s frightful intensity is offset by scenes in which she speaks to her mirror, now portrayed as a man with a shimmery latex fetish Then there is Hemsworth. While the actor is clearly a terrific action star who oozes physical presence, it was only a matter of time before he cracked the “worst film accents ever” list and his here entry is a doozey.
Snow White and the Huntsman‘s visuals are beautifully rendered and the only fault with them is that they typically exist without any reason. A mystical creature bursts into a sea of butterflies; it looks amazing, but what the hell is that actually about? Explanations are, sadly, not forthcoming. In another unfortunate turn of events, the 2-minute trailer for SWATH already reveals the vast majority of the aesthetic wonders this film holds. In a two-hour film, that’s not exactly encouraging. The camera work and editing is another glaring issue, as the approach taken to the combat sequences, and most specifically the final showdown, makes it impossible to follow or understand what is happening onscreen. That Snow White and the Huntsman isn’t horrible despite these flaws makes it all the more frustrating. There’s a great epic struggling to break free and it’s easy to guess at what could have been in more experienced, assured hands- regardless of where Hemsworth’s huntsman is meant to be from. Stewart doesn’t make a bad Snow White and there’s no denying she wears armour well. Yet, that visual queue also serves as a reminder of another mishandling of a beloved classic, Tim Burton’s vision of Alice in Wonderland. Still, SWATH would be fortunate to share that film’s inexplicable financial fate.
Snow White and the Huntsman has all the markings of a great film dragged to mediocrity thanks to inexperienced decision-making. Theron is terrific fun to watch and there’s enough here to keep the film afloat. While it manages to be entertaining for most of its run-time, it does so without ever feeling as gripping as it should. If SWATH is a let-down, a large part of that is because it clearly could have been so much better. Sander’s efforts may take 2012’s Snow White crown, but it’s about as pure as driven snow. 7/10