Snow White And The Huntsman Review By Adam
I despise Twilight. I fucking hate it. With this hate comes an intense dislike of anyone involved in the franchise. It’s completely unfair, I know, but I can’t help it. Normally I’d be all over a film like Snow White and the Huntsman - a dark re-imaging of the Grimm Brothers tale. But this new take had a wart on its face, namely the involvement of Ms Bella Swan herself, Kristen Stewart. But despite my misgivings (and having one of the more annoying actors at its centre), Snow White and the Huntsman is actually pretty good.
Snow White and the Huntsman focuses on the princess of Tabor, Snow White (Kristen Stewart). Soon after her mother’s death, Snow White’s father, King Magnus (dope name) battles a dark army forged of glass. Once he has defeated their ranks he discovers a lone survivor, luckily for him it is the smoking hot Ravenna (Charlize Theron). After a whirlwind courtship (one day, seriously) Magnus decides he is going to marry Ravenna (who could blame him?). Unluckily for him, Ravenna is a sorceress (and raging feminazi) who despises all men and their carnal desires. On their wedding night, Ravenna reverses martial traditions and daggers Magnus to death, starting a violent coup. Ravenna pronounces herself queen and promptly locks her newly acquired step-daughter in a tower. Will Snow White escape? And will she overthrow the villainous (but hot) Ravenna?
Like Madonna, the Snow White tale has had many incarnations and is over two hundred years old. But despite its inherent familiarity, people are still enamoured with this tale of treachery, beauty and revenge (I’m talking about Snow White, not Madge’s divorce). Director Rupert Sanders focuses on the darker elements of the tale, but not too sharply, as he understands Twi-hards still need to buy a ticket. It would be plain dumb to ‘stunt cast’ someone who brings a built-in fanbase and then alienate all of their followers. While this film is not explicitly violent it has a serious, Gothic tone. In choosing such an aesthetic, Sanders creates a visual spectacle that is highly atmospheric and (at times) loaded with danger. While this film’s technical credits are truly outstanding, the rest is a mixed bag.
With a few exceptions, this film has a phenomenal cast. Even the dwarves’ roll-call reads like a BAFTA catagory: Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Johhny Harris, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Ian McShane and Brian Gleeson – shit, these guys could start their own theatre company. While the dwarves are a clever bit of cinematic trickery, the film belongs to the leads. Charlize Theron chews scenery like a termite in this. She is so over the top as Ravenna that she doesn’t acknowledge a ceiling, and it works. There is a touch of Aileen Wuornos in this role and when Theron widens her eyes in anger, you pay attention. Chris Hemsworth is fantastic as Eric (the titular Huntsman). Hemsworth is a remarkable specimen and the minute he swaggered onto the screen, talking in a (solid) Scottish brogue – my audience started squealing. Hemsworth has a masculinity that is absent from the majority of his peers and if he picks his projects right, he could become the next action-mega star. Hell, he is halfway there. But despite his frame and looks, Hemsworth can really act. This is a problem in Snow White and the Huntsman as his scene partner is usually Stewart, and, frankly, he acts her off the screen. Hemsworth also ruins the performance of Sam Caflin. Cafflin plays William, a young buck who makes up part of an unnecessary love triangle. By the time Cafflin rides onscreen (looking like Henry Cavill’s mentally handicapped younger brother) he is already outclassed by the Huntsman. A special mention should be made of Sam Spruell. Spruell plays Ravenna’s repulsive, bowl-cutted brother Finn with such a reptilian snarl that I giggled (in approval) every time he was on screen.
This leaves us with the woman of the hour: Kristen Stewart. It’s a testament to the quality of the rest of this film that her leaden performance doesn’t sink the ship. K-Stew had a great opportunity to show her diversity with this role, but instead she plays up her usual tricks: mumbling dialogue, avoiding eye contact and seemingly cowering at everything. This film is meant to be a Joan of Arc-like empowerment tale, but someone forgot to give K-Stew the memo – she plays Snow White like a battered housewife. She is a adept at showing the caginess of Snow White in the beginning, but it is hard to believe her transformation into warrior queen. Though I’m usually more interested in talents than looks, her casting feels wrong on a superficial level; she is meant to be ‘the fairest of them all’, but Ms Theron (14 years her senior) has her dead to rights.
Snow White and the Huntsman‘s writing starts off strong. The start of the film is exposition-heavy, but, coupled with director Rupert Sanders’ masterful visuals, it works a treat. This breathless pace continues for at least the first third of the film. I kept thinking to myself ‘This is actually badass.’ The start of the film is light on dialogue and heavy on propulsive action and atmosphere. I’d imagine that this is the contribution of writer Hossein Amini who nailed this kind of storytelling in his script for last year’s Drive. Things get a bit wobbly as the film progresses though. Tones change, and attempts to bring humour and levity (an enchanted forest) feel a little heavy handed. The addition of William’s (Sam Caffin) romantic subplot also blows the film out; it serves no purpose and becomes nothing more than ‘sequel bait’. These additions make sure we truly feel this film’s 127 minute running time. This film has another two writers credited (Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock), and usually too many cooks spoil the broth. This is the case in Snow White and the Huntsman.
The real star of this film is director Rupert Sanders. This is his first feature film and he makes quite an impression. Huntsman is overflowing with lush, startling images. A sequence set in ‘the Dark Forest’ is hallucinogenic and filled with menacing sights – if Sanders can bring this level of visual imagination to his future work, we may have a serious talent on our hands. His work reminded me of Ridley Scott, and if Sanders can attach himself to an impressive genre script (sci-fi or horror) I’m sure he could create a masterpiece . Sanders is helped immensely by his creative team. James Newton Howard’s score thunders along and helps achieve this film’s epic atmosphere. The costumes and sets of this film approach the scope and detail of Lord of the Rings and this film owes a huge debt to Peter Jackson’s masterpieces. But if you’re going to steal, might as well steal from the best.
This is a film that has greatness within its grasp. With a harder commitment to the macabre, a recast lead and the abolishment of the love triangle, this could have been a minor classic. As it stands, it is a good looking distraction with a few inspired performances, and is, surprisingly, better than you may expect.