“Snow White and the Huntsman” plays like the love child of the Brothers Grimm and The Hobbit. It is dark in tone and in look with just a few hi ho ho’s provided by the Seven Dwarfs. That’ll be my last bad Snow White joke, I promise. The first hour is a gothic fairy tale, the second hour more an action movie, but through it all Charlize’s Theron’s bug eyed Grand Guiginol performance remains constant.
It’s a tale as old as time… wait a minute! That’s Beauty and the Beast. But Snow White’s story dates back almost as far. In this twist on the familiar fairy tale Charlize Theron is Ravenna, an evil queen so obsessed with being the fairest in the land she condemns the dead king’s lovely daughter, Snow White (Kristen Stewart), to a lifetime of solitude and captivity. When the queen’s gossipy mirror-on-the-wall tells her that Ms. White will one day reclaim the throne, Ravenna does what any evil monarch would do. She decides to eat Snow’s still beating heart, thereby ensuring immortality and the throne. Luckily Snow escapes, and with the help of a handsome huntsman, (Thor’s Chris Hemsworth), a childhood friend (Sam Claflin) and eight diminutive allies (Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris and Brian Gleeson), fulfills her destiny.
“Snow White and the Huntsman” may be the fairest movie of the summer, and I’m not referring to the fetching Charlize or KStew, or the chiseled Hemsworth or Claflin, but to the look of the film. It is majestically bleak, blending stark realism with fantasy elements to create a look rich in detail. With much of the color drained from the palette the movie has a dark foreboding feel which helps shape the narrative.
First time director Rupert Sanders knows how to establish atmosphere, it’s too bad he isn’t as skilled in storytelling.
The look, from the sets to the creatures—very cool tree troll and some airy fairies—to Ravenna’s evil wardrobe are all spot on, but some of the good will they create is blown by a script that often relies on banalities.
The talky bits aren’t nearly as interesting as the yelling bits (thanks to Charlize’s unhinged performance) and the action sequences. When the movie is on horseback, or Charlize is chewing the scenery (or her favorite snack, beating bird hearts) the movie is great fun. When it slows down to up the word count, it’s less so.
Stewart brings her usual brooding intensity, this time matched with an English accent and Hemsworth is having fun in a physical role that does not involve throwing a giant hammer. But as appealing as they both are, “Snow White and the Huntsman” becomes something other than a beautifully shot teen retelling of the story (with a strong sword wielding female lead and a feminist twist) only when Theron is lets loose or the band of small-sized warriors are on screen.