By Don Simpson | June 1, 2012
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writers: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, Hossein Amini
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sam Claflin, Sam Spruell, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson, Vincent Regan, Liberty Ross, Noah Huntley, Christopher Obi, Lily Cole, Rachael Stirling, Hattie Gotobed, Raffey Cassidy, Xavier Atkins, Izzy Meikle-Small, Anastasia Hille
After a brief introduction to the wish that made Snow White the fairest baby of them all, we meet the prepubescent Snow (Raffey Cassidy). It is not long before her mother (Liberty Ross) the queen dies, thus leaving Snow with her father (Noah Huntley) the king. Other than the sadness of her mother’s early death, Snow’s childhood is idyllic and so is her surrounding world. The oh-so-peaceful and pure Snow loves nature just as much as nature loves her.
When an evil army forces Snow’s father to enter his kingdom into battle, a beautiful woman — Ravenna (Charlize Theron) — is discovered in the rubble of the aftermath. The king is instantly smitten and claims Ravenna as his wife. Ravenna is almost immediately crowned queen and becomes Snow’s step-mother — make that her evil step-mother. In a moment of near-Shakespearean tragedy, Ravenna murders Snow’s father, thus seizing tyrannical control over his kingdom. Ravenna’s army kills or exiles all of the king’s supporters and Snow is imprisoned indefinitely.
Basically, Ravenna is an ego-maniacal bitch who spends half of her days chatting with the mirror man (Christopher Obi), confirming time and time again that she is the fairest of them all. Until one day she is not. Oh no! Snow (Kristen Stewart) has reached puberty, which finally qualifies her to enter into the fairer than thou competition going on inside Ravenna’s brain. The psychotically image-focused Ravenna must claim Snow’s heart in order to become the the fairest of them all once again.
Snow promptly escapes, running away into the dark forest; Ravenna hires Thor — I mean, The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) — to track her down. It is not long before Snow has a small (some more literally than others) entourage of men who are willing to risk their lives to protect her. Oh, and at least two of the men are totally smitten with her.
Probably as a result of Kristen Stewart’s inherent sulkiness, a prophesy is provided to us as an excuse for the unflinching dedication of Snow’s followers. Because other than her pale skin, Stewart is unable to convey any of the alluring qualities that are integral to the character of Snow — you know, like peacefulness, tranquility, and innocence. Stewart’s Snow is like a grumpy goth chick with a perpetual frown — in other words, Snow is nearly identical to every other character Stewart has attempted to portray.
For the first two acts, Snow repeatedly makes it clear that she is a pacifist who will never hurt another living creature; but when she rises from the dead in the third act, she becomes all bad ass. Suddenly, Snow decides to lead an army of men into an against-all-odds battle with Ravenna’s army. Yeah, I get it. If the legend is correct, Snow is the savior, the chosen one, whatever you want to call her — it is her calling to save the world from evil by way of a bloody crusade with no exit strategy. You know, like Joan of Arc…or George W. Bush.
Rupert Sanders’ debut feature is a good idea that has gone horribly wrong. I will give Sanders credit for some brilliant visual ideas, but the writing pales (pun intended) in comparison. Maybe if writers Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini relied less upon Christian theology, the story might have been a little less heavy-handed and hokey? Early on, it seemed as though Snow White and the Huntsman might be a clever post-feminist diatribe about body image, pacifism and environmentalism. Boy was I way off the mark!
Charlize Theron gives the only decent performance in the entire film, though there are even a few scenes that she probably could have dialed back a few notches. Theron has made a career of being a chameleon. She can become old or ugly just as effortlessly as she can become impeccably beautiful — and Snow White and the Huntsman relies quite heavily upon that ability. Ravenna’s appearance is in a constant state of flux and Theron is convincing no matter what quantity of make up or CGI is applied to her face. It is a damn shame that the other actors in Snow White and the Huntsman are incapable of performing with comparable range.
(Also be sure to check out Jessica Delfanti’s much more positive review of Snow White and the Huntsman.)