Visually stunning but much too somber and bloated for its own good, ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ is the better of the revisionist Snow White flicks of 2012, but it’s still not as good as it could have been. Director Rupert Sanders has a definite style on display, and Charlize Theron seems to relish playing the evil queen, but something just seems to be missing. The performances of Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth are solid, but they just seem a bit off from what the characters should be. I think the main culprit is the script, which doesn’t make enough use of the story for its goals and often seems puzzled as to what should come next. This eventually just becomes a cousin of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ (not a compliment in my eyes, but I know I’m in the minority there). The idea of a revisionist and gritty take on Snow White is often cast aside, and the linking bits to that original fairy tale seem shoehorned in and not organic to the story one bit. The flick is dark, but it seems to be merely for the sake of being so. There’s just too much unevenness here to consider recommending it, but again…few films this year have been as nice to look at as this one.
A retelling of the Snow White tale in broad strokes, the plot could easily just be your standard issue fantasy film with a few tweaks. Regardless, the film deals with the trials of Snow White (Stewart), a princess and the fairest of them all. Her father, in grief over the death of her mother, falls under the spell of and marries the evil Ravenna (Theron). Soon, she’s killed him and imprisoned the princess. Her mirror informs her that she’ll be the fairest of them all when she literally has Snow White’s heart, but her brother Finn (Sam Spruell) accidentally lets her go and she flees into the woods. Ravenna then tasks a grieving huntsman (Hemsworth) with finding her, claiming she’ll reunite him with his lost love. He obliges, but has a change of heart and saves her from Finn and his men. Soon after, they’re on the run and before long they’ve taken up with a band of dwarfs (Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Brian Gleeson, and Johnny Harris) and joined up with Snow White’s childhood friend William (Sam Claflin). From there, they begin to plot an attack on Ravenna. Like I said, it’s the story we all know, jut twisted a bit, but sadly mostly not in the right ways.
I don’t have any real complaints about the acting here in the flick, but aside from Charlize Theron nobody really does anything worth taking notice of. Now, Theron is hardly awards worthy, but she’s clearly enjoying her role and gives it everything she’s got. There’s a great intensity to her work, and it’s a shame that the script forgets about her for long stretches of time. She’s the best thing about the film outside of its visuals. Kristen Stewart (who I seem to like a lot more than most of my fellow critics) is doing something a bit different and mostly succeeds, though a few times she comes off a little too low-key for the part. I wouldn’t call her miscast, but she’s better suited to other projects. As for Chris Hemsworth, he’s fine, and perhaps more so, but he sometimes seems a bit bored, as if he’d rather be playing Thor more. As for the dwarfs, they’re all pretty much wasted (especially the likes of Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Ian McShane, and Ray Winstone, who all are capable of so much more)), with Bob Hoskins being the only one of any note. Both Sam Claflin and Sam Spruell are adequate, and the supporting cast also includes Noah Huntley, Vincent Regan, and Liberty Ross. Overall, there’s no acting to get excited about besides Theron.
What makes this film interesting to me is the direction by Rupert Sanders. Yes, it does sometimes look like a high end advertisement/commercial (as is his background), but it’s consistently beautiful and interesting to look at. Sanders also manages to seamlessly make the actors playing the dwarfs appear that small. It’s a special effect that won’t get enough credit, but deserves a round of applause. If he could get a handle on his pacing, Sanders has a real future in this business. I’d even have likely been able to recommend this flick is the screenplay had been better. Credited to the trio of Hossain Amini, Evan Dougherty, and John Lee Hancock (with Dougherty given credit for the story), no one seems able to figure out why this should be a Snow White film, so they barely acknowledge it. They also seem far more interested in the huntsman than in the other title character. I wouldn’t mind too much, but the thing is, the moments and characters you’re most interested in seeing are glossed over, leading to some frustration. It’s overly serious and without any real fun. The main disappointment is the dwarfs, who could easily have been cut out without the movie missing a beat (it honestly would have helped with the bloated running time, which is a few minutes over 2 hours). There are things to like, but they’re surrounded by issues.
‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ just isn’t the spectacle that it thinks it is. There’s not too many flaws here, but there aren’t enough pluses to balance it out in the film’s favor. I liked Charlize Theron and the visual flair of director Rupert Sanders, but the script is all over the place and there’s never a moment where you really feel connected to the material. The film never quite knows what it wants to be, and the audience often doesn’t know what to make of it. The end result is a decent enough flick, but a missed opportunity when you add it all up. I wanted to like this film, and I did to a certain extent, but just simply not enough to recommend it.
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