Snow not so White
The fairy tale gets a highly-stylized makeover
By Tim Pompey 06/14/2012
Snow White and the Huntsman
Directed by Rupert Sanders
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron
Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality
2 hr., 7 mins.
Forget everything you knew about the story of Snow White. At least the smiling princess, adorable dwarfs, whistle while you work version. This film may have a similar story, but it feels more like an amped-up Grimm’s fairy tale — muddy, dirty, bloody — eons removed from Disney.
But is it entertaining? Yes, due largely to the fluid sense of style of director Rupert Sanders, who I suspect may have grown up listening to Pink Floyd and watching Metallica videos. Even with all the blood and guts, you can still appreciate his deft photographic touch.
In this film, the young princess Snow White (Kristen Stewart) must deal with two major heartaches. First, the death of her mother, then the seduction of her father by the mysterious and beautiful Ravenna (Charlize Theron).
Unfortunately, the day after their wedding, Ravenna murders him and begins to suck the youthful essence out of her kingdom’s subjects. Ravenna throws Snow White in prison and, with the help of her brother Finn (Sam Spruell), turns the kingdom and its subjects into bone and ash.
After years of imprisonment, Snow White finally escapes from her cell, only to be pursued by a dirty, drunken huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), who is hired by the queen to bring her back. Instead, he decides to help her escape through a dangerous enchanted forest. From here on, Snow White must learn how to fight and win back her kingdom.
All of this might be dismissed as standard grist for the Arthurian adventure mill. Indeed, it’s not hard to guess where this story is going or how it ends, and some of the dialogue is about as adventurous as a walk in the rain.
But never underestimate a visually gifted director. Pictures can fill in where plot falls short, and this film has a sharp eye for detail. From its great wide shots of a lonely castle perched above an ocean to the picturesque scenes of Ravenna preening in her castle as both queen and sorceress, director Sanders has a knack for using the camera as an important part of the story. Plot? Dialogue? Who needs it? Just sit back and enjoy the scenery.
And who is more scenic in front of a camera than Charlize Theron? Using minimal body movements, she brings the focus of each scene to her eyes. Angry, cold, occasionally sorrowful, she manages to make the viewer feel empathy for her own tragic tale, even as she kills indiscriminately and vengefully pursues Snow White.
Then there are the dwarfs. Using the same technical wizardry as Lord of the Rings, fine actors like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone are made to appear dwarflike, but they more than outsize any of the other actors in this film. Behind all the CGI and makeup, they manage to shine with wit and humanity. If the film had been about them, it would have been a lot more fun.
As for Stewart and Hemsworth, one definitely lifts up the other. While Stewart starts off still stuck in her Twilight mode, Hemsworth, looking permanently dirty and mangy, uses his warrior spirit to energize her and turn her into a fighter.
Forget Thor. Forget The Avengers. Hemsworth has the same tough screen charisma as Colin Farrell or Daniel Craig, and this really is his coming-of-age role.
This film may pale in comparison to Lord of the Rings, but it is seductive and a welcome antithesis to Disney’s version. As the black landscape flows off the screen and into your popcorn, you can literally feel yourself being pulled into the orbit of Ravenna and Snow White. It’s messy, but darkly entertaining. Who knew being a queen could be this much bloody fun?