There’s a reason they were called the Brothers Grimm. Don’t get me wrong, I grew up with happy, singing animals and dwarfs and a spacey, oblivious Snow White like most people, but the material does lend itself to go to some much darker areas. That’s exactly what Snow White and the Huntsman does and is ultimately better off for it.
Snow White and the Huntsman isn’t anywhere close to being a flawless movie, but it does excel because of its strong visual style and solid cast (even that one person).
The story is the tale we’ve known for ages but with a few added elements and slight twists concerning certain characters. Admittedly, when you retell an iconic fairy tale, there aren’t many surprises to be found in the story. But if a story is good enough to become iconic, then why bother changing things up too much?
As was apparent from the trailers, Snow White and the Huntsman is really gorgeous to look at. The creatures have some very fascinating, naturally beautiful designs, the scenery is breathtaking, and the costumes stand out, but not ridiculously so. Watching people hallucinate on nightmare fungus in the dark forest, vast shots of characters travelling on the landscape, and the two scenes involving the queen covered in some form or another of liquid are all some of the most dynamic images in the movie.
It seems fair to say a lot of time and effort was put into making the film so visually strong, and so I think it also seems fair to say that it paid off quite well.
This is director Rupert Sanders very first film after working only in commercials (a business that clearly favors attention grabbing visual styles). Luckily, a great cast was assembled for him to work with.
Between Tom Hiddleston and Charlize Theron, there is going to be a memorable line up of villains this summer if they continue to be this good. Theron is the show stealer here, going all out wicked, sometimes over the top, but always engaging. Interestingly enough, she’s also given a good deal of back-story and pathos, making her the most developed character in the movie.
I am officially on board with having Chris Hemsworth be in many more movies. Not only does he have presence, he’s got charisma and always comes off as likable.
It was a nice surprise having such an awesome line-up of British acting royalty to play the dwarfs, including Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, and Ray Winstone. Their appearance about an hour in is a shot of thematic brightness in what was an otherwise gloomy movie.
Now to the cast member that’ll make or break it for some: Kristen Stewart. She was originally the reason I wrote this movie off when it was first announced. She’s got such a stigma that comes with her because of that damn Twilight role that it’s impossible to look at her objectively anymore.
That said, I found her mostly tolerable here. She’s still doing those character ticks she’s now known for, but I suppose watching both your parents die and then being locked in a tower for almost a decade is a good enough excuse for acting all stoic and mopey. And for what they have her do for most of the movie, that performance fits right in. She’s almost more of an item that influences everyone else’s actions rather than a substantial player in the overall game.
I also really enjoyed this idea they played upon about how Snow White is basically life force and The Evil Queen is death incarnate. It set up for a very nice duality.
The problem comes when she has to get all energetic to lead the army against the queen and all you can do is sigh and wish for her to put down the sword before she hurts herself. It’s the exact same problem I had with Alice in Wonderland when she also put on the Joan of Arc armor. It’s just too hokey and unearned.
It should also be noted that the mirror that proclaims Kristen Stewart “fairer” than Charlize Theron doesn’t actually have any eyes. Suspension of disbelief is required and I eventually just had to interpret “fairest” as “has the ability to rule a kingdom without being a total bitch.”
Casting decisions aren’t the only shortcoming Huntsman has, however. The movie is also in league with Alice in that it too has a generic fantasy-quest, Narnia ripoff script that includes the standard lines and speeches that could be lifted straight from any other movie of its ilk.
I know the movie prides itself in its imagery, but sometimes it’s best for an editor to swoop in and tidy things up. There are more than a few instances where shots go on too long on something that isn’t significant (especially in the first 20 minutes). The movie isn’t necessarily a slow burn, but some touch up work here and there would have helped it be more fluid and less sluggish.
Huntsman falters by borrowing newer story elements from weaker material but gets a boost from aesthetically being more along the lines of LOTR or Pan’s Labyrinth. The visuals and the score are engrossing, the cast is reliable, and this interpretation of the story works, minus a few quibbles.
It’s not a great movie (and I’m sure it wasn’t meant to be) but if you can sift through certain parts involving our main heroine, the standard script, and the pacing, it can certainly be a fun one.