Based on the trailers and posters for "Snow White and the Huntsman," the heroine wears armor, kicks ass and takes names, all without breaking a sweat or messing up her hair. This would be a retelling of the Snow White tale in which she is no one's victim. I was completely on board with that.
So imagine my disappointment when Snow White trudges through most of the film asking others to help her.
What a bummer, right?
The tale starts off with a queen giving birth to a baby girl with lips as red as blood, skin as white as snow, and hair as black as a raven (or ebony). The royal family is joyous, but a few years later, the queen passes away from illness. The king remains a widower until a mysterious army attacks. His troops easily vanquish the enemies, who disintegrate into obsidian shards upon destruction. The enemy army's prisoner is Ravenna (Charlize Theron), and the king is so deeply infatuated with her beauty that he marries her the very next day. Ravenna seizes power on their wedding night by slaying the king and becoming queen of the land. The Queen banishes her stepdaughter to a jail cell and begins her reign of terror, maintaining her youthful beauty by using magic to absorb life from the kingdom's young girls.
Years later, she learns from her magic mirror that Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is about to eclipse her as the fairest in the land. She tasks her brother, Finn (Sam Spruell), who sports the ghastliest hair cut known to man, with killing Snow White so she can consume the girl's heart. The heroine manages to escape and wanders into the Dark Forest, a location from which very few people have emerged. The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is one of those few, so the Queen's men enlist his help to track down Snow White.
The kindest adjective that I can bestow upon the characterization of Snow White is "inconsistent." For a girl who spent most of her life in a jail cell, she is sometimes quite resourceful. During her escape, she is surrounded in the courtyard by troops on horseback. Rather than freeze in her tracks and be captured — this would've been a really short movie — she manages to identify a sewage chute as an escape route and gets away. Then she spends most of the movie following the Huntsman until miraculously unearthing courage somewhere. She proceeds to give a rousing speech to some troops, encouraging them to follow her into battle.
I haven't seen any of the "Twilight" movies, but based on the trailers and commercials to which I've been subjected, Stewart plays essentially the same character, only with a slight British accent. Instead of choosing between a vampire and werewolf, she chooses between the Huntsman and her childhood friend, William (Sam Claflin). She looks mildly interested for the duration of the movie, never committing to any extreme emotions … such as happiness.
Hemsworth trades in his Thor hammer for an ax. He starts off with some promising lines but ultimately fades into the background. As Snow White follows his lead for most of the movie, this doesn't say too much about his presence.
Theron is fashionable and beautiful, and she is convincing as the evil queen, but she often gets really shrill. With Snow White being bland for most of the film and the queen bordering on insane, this retelling isn't doing feminism any favors.
There are eight dwarves, and while the CGI is impressive in turning full-sized actors into dwarves, their dialogue could've used some more pizzazz. There were a few fun lines, but not nearly enough to breathe some life into this film.
The visuals are the highlight of the "Snow White and the Huntsman." From the sweeping scenery — think "Lord of the Rings" — to the intense action sequences, this is a gorgeous film. Some of the imagery has a dream-like quality reminiscent of Evanescence music videos, and the special effects are impressive. Such sumptuous eye candy almost makes this movie worth watching. Almost.
This is Rupert Sanders' first time directing a big-screen movie, and it shows. He's directed some gripping Halo commercials, so his work is apparently brilliant in small doses. The movie kind of plodded along and felt drawn out, so we were surprised to learn that it was only two hours long. I could've done without some of the "Meanwhile, back at the evil castle" scenes, and that may have helped to tighten up the pacing.
The screenplay was written by folks who don't have much writing experience behind them, either: Evan Daugherty, who has one other writing credit to his name; John Lee Hancock, who has only written seven screenplays in the past 20 years, and Hossein Amini, who had writing duties for "Drive," a screenplay so sparse that it could've fit on a cocktail napkin. I'm not saying that I could've done a better job, but during Snow White's escape, a horse is just lying there, waiting for her on the seashore. This is a fairy tale and all, but come on.
Without giving away its contents, the final scene of the film is a minute-long, pregnant pause with plenty of lengthy, lingering glances but no actual dialogue. This rings clearly of Amini's touch, and depending on your opinion of "Drive," this is either pure art or a waste of a perfectly good minute.
"Snow White and the Huntsman" is like the gorgeous prom queen with no personality and who tends to space out from time to time. It's a beautiful film that lacks in just about every other department, and it's a real pity because this had the potential to be something special.
"Snow White and the Huntsman" is rated PG-13 and has a running time of 2 hours and 7 minutes. It is showing in 2-D.
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