(Published in Issue 11 of my publication In Retrospect)
Directed by Rupert Sanders, Snow White And The Huntsman is the latest in a series of childhood fairytale re-imaginings. Based on the classic Brothers Grimm tale Snow White and The Seven Dwarves, the film follows the story of a Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) who is ordered to find and kill the princess of the realm, Snow White (Kristen Stewart), who has run into the haunted woods after escaping being locked up by the Evil Queen (Charlize Theron), a sorceress whose dark magic has immersed the kingdom into complete despair. The Huntsman, however, finds himself becoming Snow White’s protector, as they meet seven dwarves on their quest through the forest and begin to conspire a plan to defeat the Evil Queen for good.
As the second re-telling for the Snow White story this year, Snow White And The Huntsman is undoubtedly the better of the two. A much darker and less child-friendly take on the story compared to Tarsem Singh‘s family adventure Mirror Mirror which was released in April earlier this year, Snow White And The Huntsman comes much closer to the original and legendary Brothers Grimm tale. As Sanders directorial debut, this epic film is a big step for the director but he pulls it off superbly.
The most noticeable quality is the brilliant special effects that have a great contrast from nightmarish scenes to ones of pure fairytale elegance. Reminding me in places of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth, everything from the costumes to the man-made sets are impressive and it really does bring the story alive. At first I was worried that the film would come close to Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland retelling, which for me didn’t work despite its great casting, but fortunately it is far from it.
One of the main things that didn’t work, however, which can be said for the other Snow White re-telling too, was the romantic undercurrent of the film. Whilst the romance could have worked in two ways here – first with the Huntsman himself, and then secondly with Snow White’s childhood friend William (Sam Claflin) – the film only attempted to make it work with these male characters, and ultimately didn’t with either of them. For me it was the character of William that messed this romantic possibility up. Whether or not this was a complete misjudgment on my part, I found myself thinking that William was actually Snow White’s brother, which left me feeling like I was watching some rather uncomfortable scenes of incest. Again, I may be alone in missing the detailing of their relationship, but I felt that his character was too underwritten to fit into the story well enough as a whole as well as to form a romantic connection that the audience would care about.
Creating further problems, his character then got in the way of a possible romantic connection to blossom with Snow White and the Huntsman, which was the film’s biggest missed opportunity. Stewart and Hemsworth getting together was something all of the audience were hoping for, I think, but there was a huge lack of sexual chemistry between the two characters and it was all left very much unresolved. It’s a shame that this development was wasted as this would have given the film some well-needed sexiness.
As for Kristen Stewart herself, she filled another great heroine role here, and even pulled off a decent English accent. For many viewers her casting probably wasn’t appreciated by all due to the controversies of her role in Twilight, but I have always enjoyed her acting abilities. My only criticism would be that in places her character did come close to that of Bella Swan so it was a little cringe-worthy, but on a whole she did manage to play Snow White rather well. Chris Hemsworth was also great for the hunky male protagonist, although his Scottish accent was a bit dodgy in places. Still, they made a great casting combination, aside from the lack of sexual chemistry mentioned, and it’s this that makes this latest re-telling stand out.
However, it was Charlize Theron that stole the show. Giving a much less panto performance than Julia Roberts in Mirror Mirror, Theron instead gives a real evil portrayal of the Queen who is strong and powering throughout. For me, it was the casting of Theron that made the film work so well. The dwarves, too, were brilliantly cast, consisting of Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Johnny Harris, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost and Brian Gleeson. This bundle of great British talent was a great inclusion, and it is sure to get you excited for Peter Jackson‘s The Hobbit later this year.
At 126 minutes the film is a little lengthy, but everything is consistent and the gorgeous effects make it all worthwhile. Whilst it seems that some parts of the plot could have had a better emphasis and that some of the relationships needed to be worked on better, Snow White And The Huntsman is an overall enjoyable, dark, action-filled and brilliantly acted film that for me is currently the best fairytale re-telling to be released yet.