While this movie is far from perfect, Snow White and the Huntsman is, the best Snow White adaptation I have watched so far.
WHY IS IT GOOD?
In one word (or make it two): Charlize Theron. Her portrayal of Ravenna truly stole the show. Even in her most evil moment, you can see the internal turmoil inside her, with subtle movements and twitches of Theron’s facial muscles. The evil queen was portrayed as a flawed character, someone with a traumatic past that led to her being evil. She summarizes that men only use women and when they are no longer beautiful, they turn to other women. She doesn’t care much for anyone other than to rule as a queen and maintain her power by draining young women of their youth; and only her brother draws any emotion from her, as shown in the scene when he dies and she tearfully says, “I’m sorry” for not being able to save him.
|The evil queen Ravenna on her wedding day
In fact, Theron was so good the movie should have been named after her character. While I love Winona Ryder, the actress originally envisioned for this role, I cannot imagine anyone acting better than Theron.
One other good thing about SWTH was that it gave practically everyone a back story. We all know the fairy tale: good queen dies, king remarries, new queen is an evil witch and wants to kill the little princess. In the fairy tale (and I had to look it up on my unabridged Grimm’s fairy tales book collecting dust somewhere in our house), the queen resorts to three methods: a tight corset which prevents Snow White from breathing, a poisoned comb, and finally, the poisoned apple. She is ultimately defeated when, after her third attempt, she discovers that Snow White still lives and still more beautiful than her, the new bride of the prince from a neighboring kingdom. Her jealousy got too overwhelming and she dies at the wedding after being forced to wear metal shoes and dancing til she died.
But in this movie, there was a reason for the queen’s deadly obsession with vanity and she was not as cold-hearted nor one-sided as in the fairy tale, and showed genuine care and sorrow when her brother Finn dies.
Sam Claflin as Snow White’s childhood friend William, reminded me of Michael from the Canadian production of Nikita (the one that starred Peta Wilson) and in a good way: he’s handsome, strong and totally in control in the few scenes he was in. Or maybe it was just the hair (they don’t look alike at all). Chris Hemsworth’s Eric the Huntsman, while quite convincing as a mighty hunter, was more distracting with his thick accent and I can’t shake the feeling that he was almost always on the verge of breaking into a fit of giggles (the way he looked like in Thor; incidentally, Viggo Mortensen turned down the role of the huntsmen which would have been perfect for his rugged good looks and gruff acting). But both of them are prettier men than their leading lady.
|Or William, the Duke’s son?
Sadly, the biggest and most glaring mistake about this movie was its titular character. Kristen Stewart’s acting had never gotten any raves, and this movie is no upgrade. She manifests only two facial expressions: that of an open-mouthed damsel in distress and wide-eyed surprise. Plus, it was quite hard to believe that a mirror that judges physical beauty would choose Stewart over Theron, who, at 39 years old compared to Stewart’s 22, doesn’t even enjoy the advantages of youth.
The film also deviates from one of the main points of the fairytale: the true love between Snow White and her prince. In this version, Snow White is caught in a love triangle between Eric and William, and in one of the pivotal scenes of the movie, it seems that it was Eric’s kiss that wakes her up. It gives you the feeling that the handsome prince was discarded unceremoniously in favor of Thor, err, the huntsman, with a storyline that was so pathetic and unimportant it would have been better if he had been written out of the script totally.
However, viewers are not treated to any certain fate in the love department, even with that last scene where the huntsman and the princess share a lingering look and a smile – which opens up the speculation on there being a sequel (yaiks, Snow White as a franchise???).
Production-wise, this movie felt like a mash-up of Lord of the Rings (specifically that horseback riding scene that was reminiscent of the Lord of the Rings, where Frodo and Arwen were chased by the wraiths into Rivendell) and several other epic/fantasy films all rolled into one. The muted palette of the first half established the desolate kingdom as compared to the lush enchanted forest, the sanctuary of the fairies. However, the movie quite lost its footing in the last and the most crucial part – the battle to reclaim the kingdom. Here, Snow White was transformed into a Joan of Arc-lie warrior (literally overnight – how, I wonder, when she has been kept in a tower for over a decade) and the battle that ensued felt pushed, unnecessary, and quite a pain to watch.
Also, one of the biggest draws of the film – new characters and back stories – eventually also became one of its weakest points. While it attempted to explain the reasons why each character turned out the way they did, it failed to follow through on those back stories and the movie fell flat in the end.
This movie and the Snow White adaptation that came out earlier this year (Mirror, Mirror) seems more about the evil queen than Snow White herself. In fact, the queens are both bigger stars than the ones playing Snow White (hello, both have Oscars under their belts).
Is this a must-see movie? No. But if you want to see top-notch acting from Theron and ogle the pretty boys fawning over Stewart’s supposed fairest in the land looks, then by all means, go.