Rupert Sanders’ directorial debut, Snow White and the Huntsman, is a meticulously crafted attempt to put a dark spin on an original children’s fairy tale classic. Blood, death, and romance intertwine in this updated tale which, oddly enough, is the story of neither Snow White nor the Huntsman, but rather a poisonous, nefarious Queen named Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Ravenna’s sole goal is to find immortality so as to keep her breathtaking looks day after day with no falter. She is the fairest of them all.
That is until Snow White (played by Kristen Stewart) builds up the courage to escape from her incarceration. With only one person in the universe able to hinder her quest for agelessness, Ravenna hires a huntsman (played by Chris Hemsworth) to hunt and murder our “rare beauty”, Snow White.
Whether it is her divine beauty or her contagious affection for others, the huntsman falls for Snow White in the midst of attempting to kill her. Talk about a shaky way to begin a relationship. The two strong willed individuals team up with an army led by the Prince of Duke (played by Sam Clafflin) to seek and destroy the Queen before she causes any more harm to society.
So begins a classic battle of good vs. evil. The lines are drawn and established almost immediately. There’s no confusion in which characters we’re “supposed” to root for. Very safe and lacking any moral ambiguity, Snow White and the Huntsman is essentially a by-the-numbers sweeping epic where we know the ups and downs of each character two scenes before they occur.
Freshman filmmaker Rupert Sanders (who began his career directing ads) ostensibly put a focus on building an eerie, atmospheric tale of lust and bloodshed. But as the plot unravels and characters begin to develop, Snow White and the Huntsman increasingly strays away from the depths of darkness, and enters into familiar territory of its optimistic source material.
What the film does test is the potential of Kristen Stewart. Stuck in the lifeless Twilight Saga – a choice that will plague her career till the day she retires – Stewart doesn’t project the same sort of energy she captured so excellently in Adventureland (2009).
The lack of progression and backdrop in the character of Snow White could be the fault of screenwriters Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock, but Ms. Stewart does very little to propel our emotions, even as she endures countless hardships.
As for her mentor, the huntsman, Hemsworth dials in the same bruiting, emotionless performance he delivered in Thor and The Avengers. On the other hand, Theron strikes chords of terror and sadness as the malevolent Queen who has been cursed since birth.
On a note of positivity, Snow White and the Huntsman is a wondrous display of visuals: Most particularly in a jaw-dropping sequence where Snow White, the huntsman, and the seven dwarves (seven male actors whose faces are super imposed on tiny bodies) enter a metaphysical fairy world. Also lending gravitas to the extraordinary visual craft are the abundance of coherent sweeping action sequences that feel like something out of a Lord of the Rings movie.
Snow White and the Huntsman has something to offer visually, even if its narrative ambitions come up short. Despite being new to making feature length films, Sanders has the good sense to not force a contrived romance down our throats. Which in the year 2012 where pseudo romance is aplenty, is much appreciated.
2.5 out 4 stars
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