This year, moviegoers were offered not one, but two different versions of the classic Snow White tale. The first, Mirror Mirror was a forgettable comedy that managed to exceed my extremely low expectations, even if only slightly. But it was the second movie that I had really been looking forward to. The trailers for Snow White and the Huntsman promised a much darker film with a story that adhered more closely to the original German fairy tale.
Unfortunately, this story (er, review) doesn’t have a happy ending.
Snow White and the Huntsman is indeed a darker, more adult version of the fable than I’ve seen since Snow White: A Tale of Terror, which starred Sigourney Weaver in 1997. What is frustrating about the former is that on it’s journey down the path to the dark side, it gets halfway there and decides to stop for a nap.
Snow White and the Huntsman gets off to a promising enough start. After the good queen dies in childbirth, the king is overcome with grief. The beautiful Ravenna (Charlize Theron) visits the kingdom, woos the king, and befriends the young princess. Shortly thereafter, the king succumbs to Ravenna’s advances and marries her. The very night Ravenna becomes queen, she murders the king in their wedding bed and imprisons the young Snow White.
So far, so good.
Fast forward fifteen years later – Ravenna has ravaged the kingdom with oppression and darkness, and the young Snow White is now… Kristen Stewart. [Sigh]
Yes, I am not a fan of Kristen Stewart. Based on what I’d seen in the trailer, I had hoped she might have improved since her last Twilight flick. She hasn’t. Stewart is an actress capable of many emotions: fear, anger, sadness, determination. Unfortunately she expresses each of these in exactly the same way – as if she’s passing a kidney stone. Nevertheless, things zip along well enough in the first third of the movie that I was able to ignore her.
But once she escapes the queen, things start slowing down and then it’s Kristen Stewart’s big ol’ sourpuss up on the screen for the next hour. Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman should have provided some relief. Unfortunately, when his character isn’t too busy getting his ass kicked, he’s just plain boring. Worse yet, the Huntsman is just a little too close in looks and manner to Hemsworth’s much more awesome Thor – so much so that every time he started doing battle with the bad guys, I totally expected a giant magic hammer to show up.
The seven dwarfs also don’t improve things much, and in fact it’s about the point at which the dwarfs are introduced that the pace begins slowing to a crawl. The boredom is occasionally and welcomely interrupted by Queen Ravenna’s descent into madness and desperation, as Charlize Theron offers the one standout performance in the film. The only problem is that the further along she gets, the more outrageous her performance becomes. By the time the last third of the movie rolls around, Theron is practically spitting out her lines in an over-the-top rage that reminded me of really bad Shakespeare. (Fortunately, I kinda like really bad Shakespeare.)
The digital creature effects are another bright spot in Snow White and the Huntsman which features a magnificent giant troll worthy of Pan’s Labyrinth. Also, the infamous talking mirror (my second favorite character in the film) is beautiful as it cascades like a waterfall of liquid metal before taking on the form of an ominous cloaked figure. But perhaps the coolest effect, though not particularly original, is Ravenna’s transformation into a flight of ravens. After one such transformation, the evil queen returns to the castle, weakened by battle with barely the energy to reconstitute her human form, and drags herself through a tar-like puddle of goo and twitching, dying crows. Which is an apt metaphor for the second half of the movie.
Snow White and the Huntsman tries but never quite recovers from the slow pacing in the middle, and the anticlimactic ending doesn’t do anything to turn it around. My high expectations probably set me up for disappointment, but I really hoped for better.
Dave_P studied fine arts and film history and is a graphic and web designer, and a diehard movie fan. David has been involved with a variety film festivals including the Cinephile Film Festival, the PRIDE Film festival, and the Manhattan Short Film festival, and is currently the director of the Dark Carnival Film Fest in Bloomington, Indiana. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)