First, let me get a couple things out in the open: 1) I have a major soft spot for fantasy movies; 2) I have never been a huge fan of “Snow White,” particularly the Disney version, as I find Snow White as a character to be way too much of a testament to the ideal woman before the 1970’s (i.e. always dependent on men to protect her while she fulfills her womanly duties of cooking, cleaning, and being entirely too chipper while doing it, not to mention the fact that her beauty is the most important thing about her). However, I do like how contemporary retellings such as this movie and “Once Upon a Time” have recalled its fairy tale origins and have both darkened the story and made it more complex; 3) I hate Kristen Stewart and will never understand why people think that she has “emotional depth” and “brings complexity” to her characters. And there is NO WAY that she is “fairest of them all” in comparison to Charlize Theron, who ironically enough is infinitely more respectable as an actress.
“Snow White and the Huntsman,” which is much like the original telling by the Brothers Grimm, took me back to a childhood full of “Ladyhawke,” “Legend,” “Dark Crystal,” “Labyrinth,” “Willow”… pretty much every fantasy movie that came out in the ‘80s. What made these movies great? They were otherworldly, dark, and sophisticated. However, in all fairness, “Snow White and the Huntsman” doesn’t quite reach the level of its 1980’s forebears.
It follows the standard Snow White storyline: an evil sorceress (Theron) infiltrates her way into Snow White’s father’s kingdom to become the queen, but when Snow White (Stewart) comes of age and surpasses her beauty (according to a molten gold dude), the Queen wants her dead so that she can cut out and consume her beating heart so that she can be young and beautiful forever. Snow White escapes to the Dark Forest, where no one except a brave huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is willing to go. However, he cannot bring himself to kill her.
Here the story begins to diverge a little bit: The huntsman was with a group of Queen’s men, and he won’t kill her because he realized that the Queen’s promise of bringing back his dead wife in payment for Snow White’s capture was a ruse. They escape together and journey throughout the land in an effort to hide, encountering all kinds of people and creatures along the way. Snow White eventually leads the insurgence against the Queen—a fabulous way to turn the original story of Snow White on its head and make her a strong, feminine character who actually plays a very active role. The story is less about her and more about reclaiming what the Queen took away from everybody. A couple other major plot points deviate from the original story, which were not entirely unexpected but will not be spoiled here.
Charlize Theron did a fabulous job as the evil Queen, who actually has her own back-story in this movie! Not that her reasons for being evil are entirely justified (or even fully developed), but still—she’s a badass and has the coolest costumes. The special effects and cinematography were quite spectacular, though I do love over-cranked film, and black shards of evil glass flying at your face in slow motion make everything so much cooler. However, they were not as spectacular as other contemporaneous fantasy films, such as “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 2” or the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. Rotten Tomatoes gripes about the script, but I didn’t have so many problems with it as I did with Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth.
I am glad that Snow White finally has some depth, though I think that more time could have been spent on making her an even stronger female character. For example, though she led the war against the Queen, she still could barely use a sword. And Kristen Stewart… Kristen Stewart makes my heart die a little every time I see her. It’s not just because of “Twilight”: I really have never liked her much at all, ever since “Panic Room” and “Into the Wild.” WHY do people think she imbues her characters with a subtle complexity? That “complexity” to me looks more like terrible acting, like she can’t comprehend her scripts and just makes constipated faces to make up for it. I have somewhat similar feelings towards Chris Hemsworth, who does a very good job at looking good, but his character is almost indistinguishable from Thor (except that Thor was not an alcoholic drowning his sorrows).
In summary, the film scores high with Theron, graphics, cinematography, and its recalling of earlier fantasy films. However, it fails with its inability to make Snow White a stronger character, and Stewart and Hemsworth have GOT to take some acting lessons.