Sprawling in scope and Tolkiensian in execution, Snow… takes the classic fairy tale and turns it into a grittier, darker story about the titular tomboyish princess (a miscast Kristen Stewart, who can’t seem to shake the air of apathy from her performances), who’s imprisoned, and then hunted, by her deliciously evil stepmommy dearest, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron, chewing the scenery to a borderline-camp degree), after escaping her bell-tower cell. See, Ravenna is desperate to stay young and beautiful… so much so that she sucks the youth right out of pretty girls. And, when she discovers – via her super-cool, molten-gold magic mirror – that she’s no longer considered the “fairest” in the land, and that Snow White will be her undoing, she doesn’t take it so well.
Enter the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, channeling Russell Crowe for an appropriately roguish turn), who accepts Ravenna’s mission to track and bag Snow but then changes his mind when it becomes obvious the Queen has nefarious motives for the assignment. Soon, he and Snow are on the run, with the Queen’s cuh-REEPY brother (Sam Spruell, in a fabulously sinister turn) in hot pursuit. And, before you know it, the action travels to the Enchanted Forest, involves a bunch of familiar little people and veers back and forth between whimsy and war.
The biggest selling feature? The film is absolutely stunning to look at, and a lock for best art direction, best visual effects and best costume Oscar nominations.
Every single shot is like a gorgeous painting, and I actually gasped at the beauty a few times. Equally impressive are the perfectly seamless, brilliant visual effects – the most mind-blowing of which involves taking regular-sized actors like Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Ian McShane and Nick Frost, and turning them (via CGI or outright magic) into the seven (swarthy) dwarves. I have never seen anything like it, and it was completely believable.
And the costumes. Oh, the costumes. Well, specifically, Ravenna’s wardrobe, which was beyond spectacular in its design and detailing. I expect more than a few people will be using her as inspiration when they start pondering Halloween get-ups this October.
Where the film falters is, as mentioned, in its casting. Kristen Stewart makes for a very dull heroine, no matter how much director Rupert Sanders tries to warrior-princess her up. There’s zero chemistry between her and her two leading men (Hemsworth and Sam Claflin, who plays the adult version of Snow’s childhood best friend), which is problematic each time the filmmakers steer the story in a romantic direction. Theron does REALLY sink her teeth into her role and tiptoes on the precipice of way-over-the-top more than once… but it never goes so far as to be cringe-worthy. Fun, yes.
Because of its visual mastery, Snow White and the Huntsman is one of the rare films that really does need to be seen on the big screen. And I can’t tell you how thrilled I was when I arrived at the theater to learn it’s also one of the few big-ticket summer movies that isn’t in 3D. (Thank you!)