Directed by Rupert Sanders
After the recent success of shows like “Grimm” and “Once Upon a Time” and flicks like Mirror, Mirror that have managed to breathe new life into the timeless fairy tales we’ve all grown up on, it’s apparent that Hollywood’s newest love affair with these fantastical tales is here to stay for a while.
The latest fairy tale with a twist hits theaters this weekend- Snow White and the Huntsman– and surprisingly enough, it manages to be quite a charming and entertaining affair by first-time filmmaker Rupert Sanders that allows resident sourpuss Kristen Stewart a few opportunities to have some fun…and even crack a smile or two.
Sure, it’s definitely got a few issues, including its lengthy running time and a sloppy finish, but overall, for a movie that wasn’t really even on this writer’s anticipatory radar (much due to K-Stew), it’s a rather solid effort by everyone involved.
At its core, the story is the same- we see how a young Snow White (Stewart) gets banished to a remote tower after a vicious and possessive evil queen named Ravenna (Charlize Theron) kills her father to become ruler over the land. Obsessed with preserving her power forever, Ravenna consults her magic mirror for guidance, only to get some bad news.
Apparently, it’s written in the stars that Snow White will surpass her as the fairest of them all and retake her rightful throne; the only way Ravenna can stop this from happening is by consuming the young girl’s heart, and once the Queen prepares for her dastardly feast, Snow White manages to escape from the tower and flees into the Dark Forest, the one place where Ravenna wields no power.
Not one to give in to defeat so easily, Ravenna hires the Hunstman (Hemsworth) to track down and re-capture the young princess. But once he finds her, he’s unsure of whether or not he should hand her over to the Ravenna, especially when he discovers that Snow White is the key to bringing life and happiness back to the kingdom and all those living in it.
As a rookie director, Sanders doesn’t demonstrate any first-time jitters at all while at the helm. He creates in Snow White and the Huntsman a filthy and bleak but vibrant world filled with a multitude of fantasy elements that look great and feel incredibly immersive. With shades of projects like Lord of the Rings, Willow or even “Game of Thrones,” Sanders does an admirable job of successfully capturing the mystical elements but keeping a grounded realism throughout his tale as well.
When it comes to performances, everyone turns in solid work in Snow White, particularly both Theron and Hemsworth. As the evil queen who has limitless powers, Theron hams up the role of Ravenna but just to the right degree, and frankly, the actress is actually scarier here than she was in Monster. It’s a role that could have easily gone WAY over the top, but thankfully Theron reels herself in at certain key moments, making for a performance that never quite veers into farce territory. It is a fine line to walk for sure, but Theron walks it assuredly.
As a face that seems to be everywhere these days (and for good reason!), Hemsworth sheds his Thor persona to play a compelling and tragic anti-hero, proving the Australian actor has some great range beyond just being an ass-kicker. Even Stewart, who has never impressed this writer, works past the rather limited character development she’s given at first and really comes into her own as the movie rolls on. Sure, for half the movie she still has that sour glazed over look she seems to have in every Twilight trailer, but by late in the second act Stewart finally loosens up a bit, and that’s when the actress is at her best. Is it enough to win the naysayers over? Maybe, maybe not- but overall Stewart is certainly better than expected here.
The one thing missing from all the marketing is that the film has a lighter side; that comic relief comes in the form of an all-star cast of dwarves that includes a gaggle of beloved actors including Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, Nick Frost and Bob Hoskins. Seriously, these guys make the movie and then some, and for those wondering, they are most definitely not your typical Disney-style dwarves either; they like to drink, dance, pillage- oh, and they kick some ass, too.
While there’s a lot to like about Snow White and the Huntsman, the film does suffer from a few flaws that are hard to overlook. With a two-hour-plus running time, Sanders should have spent a little more time in the editing room as parts of the film’s first and second acts really lag. The other issue with the flick is that the final showdown scene between Snow White and Ravenna (as well as the aftermath that follows) feels insanely rushed, especially for a movie with this kind of running time. The fight between our leading ladies ends up coming off a bit flat, and a lot of the characters end up getting lost in the shuffle during the film’s final moments. Neither truly derails the flick, but it would have been nice if the film could have delivered on all fronts, not just a few.
But overall, Snow White and the Huntsman makes for a great summer popcorn flick that may actually end up surprising some of you out there who may not have been clamoring to see the latest film featuring “the chick from Twilight.” Sanders does a great job of blending the traditional plot points of this timeless tale and injecting some new material in all the right places. It’s not without a few flaws here and there, but as a whole, Snow White and the Huntsman is one summer blockbuster that shouldn’t put you to sleep.
3 1/2 out of 5