Snow White and the Huntsman
By Jenna Brower
June 1, 2012
As pretty as it is, there isn't a whole lot that's new in this darkly remade fairy tale.
Snow White and the Huntsman may open with the traditional line “Once upon a time,” but make no mistake—it ain’t Disney. Although the 1937 animated version has its share of foreboding darkness, this adaptation is darker still, more like the original Grimm fairy tale. In that story’s ending, the evil queen is forced to dance in hot, iron shoes until she dies.
Yeah, we’re talking twisted-warped-perverse.
Now, this Snow White didn’t have death-by-dancing, but it did have death in plenty of other, more conventional means: death by stabbing, death by battle, death by magical abilities in which one’s heart stops.
Okay, not entirely conventional.
Most of Snow White’s violent acts are perpetrated by or done in the name of its evil queen, Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Ravenna’s entire motivation and purpose in life is remaining young and beautiful, and she accomplishes this by charming kings and then conquering their empires, taking baths (magical ones, surely) and sucking the life out of pretty young things.
Her latest conquest is the kingdom belonging to Snow White’s father, and after he’s out of the way, Ravenna does not kill his child, but rather locks the princess (Kristen Stewart) in a tower until, presumably, the end of time (one of many weak points in the storyline).
Snow White escapes (duh), and when the queen learns that her one shot at immortality hinges on consuming the girl’s heart, she sends a capable Huntsman into the Dark Forest to retrieve her captive.
Upon finding Snow White, the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, Thor and The Avengers) becomes intrigued by her and refuses to give her over to the Queen’s lecherous brother and henchmen. Fighting ensues. Escapes are made. Dwarves come into the picture.
If that story encapsulation sounds a little oversimplified, well, it’s because it is. Everyone knows the Snow White story, and though the movie makes it feel visually new, there aren’t any twists or surprises waiting for you.
Luckily, the visual stimulation is enough to keep you awake most of the time (one man could be heard snoring in my audience): molten mirrors, mossy snakes and creatures, Ravenna’s transfiguration into a mass of tar-covered birds.
My favorite scene happened during Snow’s escape, after she finds herself in the Dark Forest. A plant or tree sprays her in the face with some substance that leads to hallucinations—like Disney’s version where Snow sees scary images in the woods and collapses in terror, but on acid. Shadowy figures, black beetles and maggoty bird corpses all appear, until Snow White collapses and we get a cool aerial view of the dead, brown brambles and forest. Later on, there was a more angelic, dewy forest scene with fairy creatures and hopping bunnies, but I preferred the darker one.
If Snow White and the Huntsman could have infused its characters and storytelling with as much life as its visual effects, it could be a pretty great movie. It’s not as if the acting’s bad—Stewart, Hemsworth, and the insanely talented casting that is the dwarves (Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, on and on) all fill their roles just fine ... but that’s it. The story doesn’t allow them to bring anything extra to the fairy tale table.
Even Theron, who can act the boring out of any movie with her facial expressions alone, has no wiggle room. She’s wicked, she’s “bad”—period. We get a glimpse into the past with her mother, but a 10-second flashback isn’t enough to redeem even the teensiest of her terrible actions. Black is black, and white is white, and you better not feel sorry for the bad guys. Why would you? They’re wholly evil.
If you go watch the film, you’ll certainly see some cool things, but you won’t see a lot else. Despite its dark tone, Snow White’s not a particularly poisonous apple to swallow. It’s shiny, red, and beautiful, but the core still tastes kinda off.