Film review: Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), directed by Rupert Sanders
tl;dr: Snow White and the Huntsman: It’s Mostly Derivative
The trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman promises a Dark Forest filled with bat people and trolls, a magical world of fairies, dwarves running amuck, a wicked queen with rejuvenating powers, and a vengeful Snow White who storms the castle with the help of the huntsman who was sent out to retrieve her. Well, 3 out of 5 isn’t bad, but it could have been so much better.
“Sanctuary,” or the world of the fairies, was simply marvelous. Mossy snakes and other gentle creatures, miniature fairies with alien faces, shimmering insects, and dwarves stuffing things (mushrooms?) in their ears because they can’t stand the fairy music. However, time spent in the fairy world is kept to a bare minimum. Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) has taken over the kingdom and everything outside of Sanctuary has died. Ironically, the queen has no power within the Dark Forest, which feeds on fear and weakness. So when Snow White (Kristen Stewart) escapes from the North Tower into said forest, the queen has to send the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to capture her.
The queen is the only developed character. She has a wisp of a back-story: as a young girl she was stolen from her family (implied, to be married to a king). Three drops of her blood in a potion and a spell uttered by her mother will keep her safe (hence the powers of rejuvenation). However, the spell can be broken by purest blood. By the end of the movie, she has been through 20 kings and the only thing standing between her and immortality is … Snow White! It’s really sad that the queen was poor and starving as an innocent child and then trafficked by royalty, except now that she has reached the top of the heap she keeps sucking the life out of the kingdom’s fair maidens like a feminine version of Darth Vader.
The huntsman, dwarves, duke’s son and the princess herself are all tame in comparison. The dwarves mostly provide comic relief, although Bob Hoskins plays a blind yet visionary dwarf with calm understatement. The duke’s son (Sam Claflin) takes most of his cues from Robin Hood. The huntsman is very nice, very nice indeed. He is allowed to say something moving at a crucial moment. And yet, over the course of two hours, his name is never revealed. (According to the crawl, his first name is The.) His role is to teach Snow White how to stab someone in the heart (to try to distract you from the foreshadowing, she replies “I could never do that”) and to defend her from All Danger with his rippling muscles.
This is the first time I’ve seen Kristen Stewart in a movie and I was not impressed with her emotional range (or lack thereof). At the same time, she was not given much to work with. I understand that this Snow White has INNER beauty and is more of a Joan of Arc than a pageant winner. But considering the over-the-top rage of the queen, couldn’t the director have at least put some lipstick on the princess? Also: why is she wearing leather pants under her dress when she escapes from the tower? How is it possible there is a horse waiting for her on the beach after she emerges from the sewer pipe? Why doesn’t she have princess teeth? I had to keep reminding myself “this is a fairy tale. Suspend your disbelief.” Then I enjoyed myself much more.
My spouse declined to attend the show with me and two of my sisters-in-law, because “the review said it was weak on plot.” Honey, I know the story of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. I didn’t go for the plot. Or the dialogue, which is as thin as the plot. Perhaps thinner. For example:
“I told you to run.” “If I had run, you’d be dead.”
(After a skirt-ripping so SW can walk faster:) “Don’t flatter yourself.”
“Why didn’t you tell me?” “I didn’t trust you.”
“You look fetching in armor.” (Seriously?!)
Fortunately, the special effects, scenery and fighting more than make up for these weak spots.
If you’ve never seen Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, Star Wars, or Enchanted, you’ll be transfixed by Snow White and the Huntsman. For those of us who have been to the movies before, the scenes with the queen and the fleeting magical moments in the Dark Forest and Sanctuary make it worth the price of admission.
3 out of 5 black feathers.