FILM REVIEW: Snow White and the Huntsman

After escaping from imprisonment by Queen Ravenna, Snow White journeys into a decaying land where she realises that her destiny lies with defeating the evil queen with the help of a huntsman, a Prince and eight dwarves.

Released the same year as another Snow White tale, Mirror Mirror, Snow White and the Huntsman always looked like the better candidate. Moodier, darker and altogether more atmospheric than its more pantomime-y cousin, my interest was peaked early for Rupert Sanders' debut effort and I have to say, it had so much potential but fell short of delivering.

The plot is a reworking of the familiar Snow White tale although with a few added twists to keep things modern and fresh. Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is a girl famed for her beauty throughout the land and, after Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) murders her father, she is imprisoned in the tower to live out her days being watched by the Queen's creepy brother while she sleeps (a dig at Twilight perhaps? I hope so). However, after the Queen learns that Snow White is both the one who can undo the curse she has set upon the land, but also the one who can give her immortal life, Snow seizes the opportunity to escape. Although hired by the Queen to track her down and bring her back, the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) joins forces with the fugitive princess and, with the aid of her childhood friend Prince William (Sam Claflin), they seek to defeat Ravenna once and for all.

Visually, the film is stunning and Sanders, with his background in advertising, has created a rich world from the terrors of the dark forest to the sanctuary that Snow visits with the dwarves. Considerably more Middle Earth than some fairytale adaptations, the landscapes link well with the Snow White as a child of nature theme, giving the film a real earthy quality that builds well into the rest of the narrative. Charlize Theron's costumes are just fantastic and I had serious dress envy with some of the outfits that she wore, particularly near the beginning of the film. But unfortunately, even the most impressive special effects, creepy granite soldiers and beautiful foliage could not disguise that what the film was really lacking was a decent script to go along with it.

When you're told continually that a character is fiery and rebellious, you expect to see it. Admittedly, Kristen Stewart is good with what she's given, displaying a decent English accent and more facial expressions than Twilight ever allowed, the screenplay doesn't give her anything to do outside of running after Chris Hemsworth (which, as occupations go, isn't the worst) and shout a bit when given a speech. We're meant to believe that the titular characters are sparking off each other, going through the traditional adversarial banter before admitting to themselves they actually quite like each other, but it's never seen. Hemsworth is given a bit more to do and outshines his co-star considerably, showing the Huntsman's conflict whilst giving the film a much-needed sense of humour despite the slightly dodgy Scottish accent. The dwarves (eight to avoid copyright issues) also add to this with some great interplay between Hemsworth and Ian McShane and Nick Frost and Ray Winstone is the grumpier pair but even they failed to inject enough humour to rescue the po-faced affair.

I feel sorry for poor Sam Claflin too as the rebooted Prince Charming, William, who gets even less to do than Stewart; he cuts a dashing figure and displays some badass bow skills but he has all the character development of a wooden spoon. Thankfully, Charlize Theron's Ravenna gives us someone to truly get involved with, a woman torn between looking beautiful and growing old gracefully. Thankfully, she choose the former and gives a fantastic performance as a woman on the edge of both sanity and death. Snarling, shouting and emoting at all the right moments, she's easily the most memorable character in the film. Fairytales were originally morality-based, educating young girls on how to behave to get your prince (and still, insidiously, do this) so it makes sense that in our female-age-obsessed culture, we get an evil queen doing everything she can to stay young and beautiful.

Sadly, the film just doesn't build enough to warrant its bombastic, battle-fuelled climax. It feels as if there is about 20-30 minutes of the film missing, somewhere in the middle where everyone goes from being their assigned fairytale archetype to their heroic future self. Snow White herself goes from being slightly helpless maiden in the forest to experienced leader of men, giving heroic speeches and fighting off guys twice her size in the space of a scene. Her relationship with the Huntsman is frequently alluded to and Hemsworth manages to convey that he cares about her but it doesn't appear reciprocated nor built on anything seen in the formative scenes between the pair. Had the film decided to opt solely for a coming of age tale, it may have helped develop Snow White more into the fiesty heroine everyone kept describing.

Had the film had a great screenplay to go along with everything else, it could have been a truly entertaining fantasy romp. It's enjoyable enough but it's let down by a lack of development in both the characters and the plot. Sure everything looks pretty, but a glossy sheen doesn't help disguise Snow White and the Huntsman's flaws.


- Becky


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