In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
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It would seem that there is a new trend in Hollywood, one where studios are making "revisionist fairy tales." Last year saw a dark retelling of little Red Riding Hood, and next year promises to bring Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters to the big screen. In the meantime, audiences get to watch a post-Twilight Kristen Stewart in Snow White and the Huntsman.
As is obvious from the title, Snow White and the Huntsman is a loose retelling of the Snow White fairy tale. After the evil Ravenna (Charlize Theron from Monster) seduces a King and kills him, stealing his kingdom, the princess Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is locked up in a tower. Every day, Ravenna looks into her mirror and asks "who is the fairest of them all?" to which the mirror answers that she is until, one day, the mirror tells her that Snow White is, in fact, more fair than herself. Ravenna, a witch who keeps herself young by sucking the youth out of other women, of course decides that Snow White should be her next victim. When Snow White escapes from Ravenna's clutches and flees into the Dark Woods, Ravenna sends a Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, who has made a career out of being Thor) who knows the woods to lead her soldiers out to retrieve the princess. Once the group catches up to her, the Huntsman falls under Snow White's charms and decides instead to help her escape to safety at a Duke's kingdom on the other side of the forest. While being pursued by Ravenna's men, Snow White and the Huntsman pick up allies, including Snow White's childhood friend William (Sam Claflin from "The Pillars of the Earth") and, yes, the seven dwarves. They all make the trek to the other kingdom but realize that, if and when they make it, they will still have to deal with the evil queen Ravenna back at Snow White's rightful kingdom.
Rupert Sanders has come out of the world of commercials and short films to direct Snow White and the Huntsman, and he does a decent job. While the script is pretty tedious and the actors overdo it a bit, Sanders' vision for the film remains constant and he turns in a great looking film. The problems with Snow White and the Huntsman do not fall solely on its director; the film is unevenly paced, unnecessarily wordy and overly melodramatic. A more experienced director may have been able to solve some of these problems, but not all of them.
Far and away the best parts in the film are the action scenes. Whether it's the knights clashing with shadow armies or the Huntsman and Snow White fighting a troll, the battle scenes just scream summer blockbuster; they're fast-paced, charged with energy and the only parts of the film that are injected with emotion at all. The sequences that are not all combat and violence are long, drawn out and just plain boring. The characters are not fun to watch, the situations are all too familiar and the story gets slowed to a crawl by conversations. Once the characters are on their way to the other kingdom in the second act of the film there's a whole lot of walking, and Snow White and the Huntsman becomes a journey film, like a shorter The Lord of the Rings movie. Shorter, but still not short enough.
The screenplay for Snow White and the Huntsman, written by newcomer Evan Daugherty with help from John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) and Hossein Amini (Drive), suffers from its lulls. The point is quite obviously to tell a darker, more violent version of the Grimm Fairy Tale that was made famous by Walt Disney in the thirties, and the script succeeds at that goal; it is a gloomy, bleak account of the story. However, the plot gets bogged down in boring, deleted-scene type of segments that seem to go on forever. It's a heavy film, and the dwarves show up in the nick of time for some much-needed comic relief, but much of the narrative is extraneous, and its excision would have made for a much tighter film. And that's not even mentioning the little "love triangle" that appears when William joins the group, a detail that almost begs for the audience to choose between Team William and Team Huntsman.
For all the monotony of Snow White and the Huntsman, the technical aspects of the film look great. Wherever possible, Sanders shows a preference for practical or makeup effects instead of computer generated effects, and this tendency keeps the on-site crew busy, but the resulting film is more genuine than a completely green-screened and composited together production. The special effects and makeup crews earn their keep, with some type of visual effect in just about every scene. During the stretches of the movie where Ravenna has no young women on whom to feed, she grows older and uglier through sly camera effects and old age makeup. The shadow armies and trolls are obvious CG effects, as is the Hollowman-like mirror, but the smaller dwarves are done with a combination of framing, platforms and body doubling (similar to how Peter Jackson created his hobbits in LOTR) that is not only clever but extremely effective. The film is chock full of interesting visuals and, whether it's the puppetry in the Dark Woods or the animated fairies, the ingenious effects are the best reason to sit through Snow White and the Huntsman.
June 1, 2012