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Review: Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Directed by: Rupert Sanders

Premise: A retelling of the Brothers Grimm fairytale. A sorceress (Charlize Theron) manipulates her way to becoming the queen and the only one who can stop her is the king’s daughter (Kristen Stewart). 

What Works: Snow White and the Huntsman is an ambitious attempt to retell the Snow White story for a post-Lord of the Rings audience and although it is an uneven film it has some very impressive performances and set pieces. The star of the show is Charlize Theron as the evil queen. Theron is the best thing in the picture and the filmmakers seem to realize that, focusing on her to such an extent that the movie might as well be retitled Queen Ravenna and the Huntsman. The writing for Theron’s character is smart, as it channels the legend of Elizabeth Bathory, modifying it for a PG-13 audience, and deepens the character, making her more than just a wicked stepmother. Theron takes the role and runs with it, infusing the evil queen with some of the pathology and sympathy that she managed in her portrayal of Aileen Wuornos in Monster, and her character in Snow White is one of the most outstanding female villains in a very long time. Snow White and the Huntsman is also helped by its allusions to other fairytales. This isn’t done in an overbearing way but the film does create a rich story world. Compared to other fantasy films Snow White and the Huntsman maintains a reasonable dimension. Even the big battles have a modest scale and the locations and people of this film have a gritty reality, much like the used future of post-Star Wars science fiction.

What Doesn’t: Snow White and the Huntsman is uneven and although it has a strong opening and a satisfying conclusion, it drags throughout the middle. The biggest problem of the film is its mishandling of the title characters. The script sets up Snow White as a Joan of Arc-like character who will mature and by the end lead the people in revolt against the queen. But the story never provides Snow White with character defining moments. Snow White is an oddly passive character who never demonstrates any growth, passion, or ambition; for that matter she barely even talks. The film faces a similar problem with The Huntsman, played by Chris Hemsworth. He at least gets a motivation but that is dropped once he tracks down Snow White and sides with her. From then on their relationship is flat. Similarly, the film has a halfhearted love triangle between Snow White, the Huntsman, and a young nobleman played by Sam Claflin. All the elements are in place but the film never moves forward with the love story, as though the filmmakers were conscious that the romantic triangle had already been done in Twilight and The Hunger Games. But since they do nothing with it the film is missing something critical at the center. Snow White and the Huntsman also struggles to integrate some of the central elements of the Snow White legend into the story. Elements like the poisoned apple and the curative true love’s kiss are obligatory to the Snow White story but the script can’t mesh them in properly and they seem anachronistic in this contemporary take on the fairytale.

Bottom Line: Although it is underwhelming in some respects, Snow White and the Huntsman mostly succeeds at what it is trying to do and is reasonably entertaining. If nothing else, the film is worth watching for Charlize Theron, although it is a shame the rest of the film isn’t as bold or textured as her performance.

Episode: #391 (June 10, 2012)