To those of us for whom Disney's "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs" was our first experience with Grimm's classic tale published in 1812 under the same name, Rupert Sanders' "Snow White and the Huntsman" will bring us some, but not complete, satisfaction that the fairy tale has rightfully been restored to its creator's vision. Displaying less the innocence of a Disney princess and more the ruthlessness of a Joan-of-Arc battle general, this Snow White, played by Kristen Stewart, is cynical and distrustful, more inclined to brood coldly around a flickering campfire than whistle while she works. Romance exists in the film, though it plays such an inferior and almost distracting role in the overall story that if it were not for the revival kiss demanded by the storyline, it could be taken out completely with no effect on the quality of the movie.
The queen's (Charlize Theron) malevolence is absolutely a joy to behold (and itself worth the ticket price). She eats the red, soaking hearts out of dead birds, she can dissolve into a murder of crows, she can shape shift, and she sucks the souls out of young girls to sustain her obsessive need to remain young and beautiful. This latter aspect is the best part of the movie and the one that serious moviegoers will applaud above all others, the queen's addiction to capturing lost youth itself a rejuvenating, dark addition to an otherwise-hackneyed storyline.
But, fear not, the movie does not forgot where it came from. SWATH borrows from already-established fantasy tales easily recognized by millenial pre-teens and teens. Bella Snow White finds herself in a love triangle with her childhood love William (whose role itself a reprisal of Legolas) and the rugged, strong-but-silent Huntsman. The queen evokes an eerie combination of Voldemort and his hooded Dementors. The ugly, dark forest through which the Huntsman and Snow White escape is reminiscent of The Princess Bride and Harry Potter. This forest leads into a near-replica of a James Cameron-imagined Pandora, which is absolutely breathtaking, even the second time (3D not required). And the queen's kingdom, where the powerful few live in splendor and the outlier towns live in squalor under the queen's poisonous leadership, will remind viewers of The Hunger Games. These familiarities, along with the choice of Stewart to play the eponoymous title role, ensures that young viewers will enjoy the film, even if their parents are the target audience.
The film is not without its stumbles. Incoherent plot points are many, commonplace in movies where destiny and magic are supposed to fill in gaps where logic fails. Stewart's performance falls flat, especially during moments of dialogue. Her writers clearly sought for her to speak as little as possible (and keep the mysterious, Stewartian air we know well), and yet, they wrote for her a late-inning, sixty-second monologue as she roused the villagers to revolt against the crown. Unfortunately, it's the audience members who need rousing by the end.
That said, more is good about the film than is bad: the overall acting level is moderately-high, the scenes tick on at a nice clip (even for a 2 hour, 15 minute feature), astounding visual effects supplant poorer aspects, and the variety of action, drama, comedy, and romance scenes make for a film that can be enjoyed by all. I have to say, I wasn't expecting much. To my pleasant suprise, this turned out to be a seriously good movie and while it may not be the fairest one of them all, it will offer something for everyone. Rent this one at the Redbox, watch it on an HD screen, you won't be disappointed.
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