Just because Snow White and the Huntsman is about the fair princess that Disney helped make exceptionally well-known, this new re-imagining isn’t what you’d expect. Tarsem’s re-telling Mirror Mirror kept it childish and silly – perhaps more so than Disney’s – but this version takes a turn toward the dark side. I tell you this for two reasons: one, do not bring children to Snow White and the Huntsman. It is not a kid-friendly film. Two, if you’ve written it off because of its princess/fairytale roots, don’t be so quick to judge. With a rich darkness, a Lord of the Rings-ish feel and top-notch visuals, it’s sure to win over even the most unlikely of audiences.
In this re-imagining, the king father of a young Snow White (Kristen Stewart) marries a man-hating user of dark magic. She is never referred to as a witch, but what the difference is, I don’t know. New Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) kills the king and drives the kingdom into the ground with her cruel leadership style. She stays young-looking and beautiful by sucking the youth of the kingdom’s most beautiful girls. We’re never told why, by she keeps Snow locked away high up in a tower instead of killing her off or stealing her youth. There Snow remains for many years, possibly even a decade or longer – that is, until Ravenna’s magical mirror tells her that Snow is now the fairest girl across the land. The way that the mirror is realized in Snow White and the Huntsman is through amazing effects that make it the coolest version of the mirror yet.
When Ravenna learns that she’s been knocked down a peg, she sends her albino monkey-boy brother to fetch Snow from her cell. In the process, Snow breaks out of the caste and, with the help of The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), she must escape the Queen’s soldiers and discover a way to take back the throne. To prematurely answer your question, no – The Huntsman is never given a name. He’s given a solid backstory, but no name.
Amidst all of the fantasy elements found within the story – black magic, fairies, and so on – the most unbelievable aspect of Snow White and the Huntsman is the idea that Kristen Stewart is the “fairest one of them all.” Even fairer than Charlize Theron? No way. Not in my book. Not in reality and not in the movies. But – whatever. A solid 80 percent of the movie not only works, but it works very well. Each of the three leads does a great job, but the most impressive is Theron. She takes a typically one-dimensional character and adds a layer of evil and disgusting depth to it. Ravenna is absolutely crazy, off-her-rocker nuts. I have never feared Charlize Theron before, but she’s terrifying here. It’s mostly because of Ravenna and her actions that I urge you not to take your young children to see it – but it’s completely fit for teenagers and adults. She’s deliciously wicked.
That aspect of the film is great, but then there’s that other 20 percent that could have been done better. This stuff isn’t tragically bad, but it fails to follow suit with the rest of the movie. We all know the story of Snow White. There’s not much that can be done to make it new; however, the first half of the movie – via tone and re-imagining – tweaks the story from the norm and makes it feel new – and it works really well! But the second half succumbs to laziness and unravels in the exactly same way that we already know. Dwarfs enter the story. Snow bites the apple. Somewhere along the way a kiss is needed. Blaa blaa blaa. We already know this. With these un-adapted elements, all of the intensity that previously existed disappears. Why would you feel tension if you already know exactly where it’s going?
The climax features a standard epic movie siege that helps bring the levels back up, but it never fully recovers. Had the script been written just a little bit better, I could easily see this being a four and a half-star movie – but as is, it’s just a three and half. What could have been great is only pretty good.
Photo credit: Universal