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Simon’s Rating: 7/10
Player Affinity Composite Rating: 5.7/10
(5 reviews total)
Struck with a dire affliction of perpetuating dourness and an affinity for the ominous, Snow White and the Huntsman is a revisionist fairy tale that wallows in grit and grunge and provides a twist on Snow White you’ve never seen before. Although the whole endeavour seems to be humming along just a few octaves below epic (not necessarily in scope, but rather in importance) thanks tremendously in part to first-time director Rupert Sanders’ eye for the surreal and the fantastical, Snow White and the Huntsman at the very least keeps a steady, darkly gorgeous tempo throughout.
“Huntsman” is riddled with inventive and often frightening action sequences and mythological set pieces (do not take your young kid to this one), and while some serve little purpose but to fill running length before the inevitable climax, they are far from bothersome to endure. When Kristen Stewart’s Snow White is fatefully forced into The Dark Forest after escaping years of solitude, hallucinations she experiences from inhaling the spores of a particular fungus are the things nightmares are made of. Envision having a really bad trip on the fear gas from Batman Begins while in the bug-filled gorge in 2005’s King Kong. The forest feeds off fear, and the princess is lucky she finds a reluctant protector to pull her to her senses and to her destined cause.
Yes, it’s Thor to the rescue. Rising star Chris Hemsworth is the titular huntsmen and things pick up considerably in the charm area when the wayward rogue makes his entrance. Caked in mud and spending more time sucking booze out of a wineskin than swinging an axe, after losing his wife to a soon-to-be-realized foe, he finds a purpose in bringing about Snow White’s salvation. The duo eventually crosses paths with the familiar character of the prince (Sam Claflin, who should have just been omitted from this retelling) and the recognizable seven dwarfs, who are comprised of a fantastic collection of digtially shrunken actors that include Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost and newcomer Brian Gleeson (son of Brendan). This scrappy gang of former gold miners provides some ample (and much-appreciated) comic relief, particularly Frost and Winstone, before they all play a role in the final siege of the evil queen’s castle.
As I’m sure will come as no surprise to anyone who has seen any promotional material whatsoever for this film, the loathsome Queen Ravenna is portrayed by Oscar-winner Charlize Theron, who slides between stunning and decrepit as her powers wax and wane. Theron plays Ravenna more like a schizophrenic psychopath rather than just a ruthless, beauty-obsessed ruler and is matched by her equally damaged brother (Sam Spurell)—her second-in-command. Although I’m not quite certain what could have been done with extended screen time, it’s fair to say Theron is strictly a supporting character, appearing to torment and chase Snow White as her antithesis (and slip off her robe and take a milk bath).
Considering the vastness of the Snow White and the Huntsman universe, it is a number of the more inconsequential and slight considerations that give it a dash of heart. Those who have seen the classic 1937 Disney fable are well aware that our fair-haired heroine Snow White has more than a passing bond with nature and its furry and feathered inhabitants. Even so, the manifestation of a suspiciously helpful bird at crucial (and often life-threatening) junctures, though forgivable — or even forgettable if not addressed — is explained in a sensible (not to mention kind of adorable) manner. Similarly, Snow White and her hunky huntsman hero happen across a village of widowed women, all of whom have intentionally scarred their faces to hinder the chance of becoming “fair” and fall victim to the evil queen. In something so grandiose, it is pleasant to see such care taken.
Sanders got his start in commercials (as with many feature film directors emerging these days), though when looking at the polished product, it’s clear aesthetically why he was chosen to construct this grim epic; whether he has a handle on keeping his actors in line is another matter entirely. Theron has a number of effective scenes but she resorts to screeching more than a few of her lines in instances where an understated snarl would have been more in place. And I have no idea if it was he or the studio that chose Kristen Stewart for the lead role, but let’s get the obvious out of the way: the young lady is miscast. Thankfully, aside from one cringe-worthy, troop-rallying speech, she does not embarrass herself and is enough of a likable foil to Hemsworth.
Snow White and the Huntsman offers up rousing, well-choreographed sequences and stunning location shots (which, in a positive way, call to mind the Lord of the Rings films), but ultimately is more interesting and gratifying than exciting and riveting. The brand of “style over substance” usually carries with it a negative connotation, but when the “substance” has been treaded over quite a bit in the last hundred years, a dash of artistry (OK, more like a cascade of attitude) is not necessarily a detrimental quality. Rating: 7/10
Max thought: “Much like the trailers that preceeded it, Snow White and the Huntsman is an intriguing idea but isn’t terribly interesting. Rupert Sanders clearly has a talent for visuals and for the most part they don’t disappoint, even if some of his best-conceived shots were blown in the trailers. It’s clearly Theron’s show, who can’t chew enough scenery (or possibly yell any louder) as the evil Queen. Her wardrobe must have eaten a third of the film’s budget. Stewart and Hemsworth do well enough, though they sort of phone their parts in while retaining a small shred of chemistry (very small, but it’s there). The film aims to be a dark, revisionist take on the classic tale works on a visual level. In terms of storytelling, it has almost no legs, save for what Theron brings to the table. Worth a rental, but not much else.” Rating: 5/10
Julian thought: “Sanders handles his directorial debut rather capably with engaging action sequences, but the film’s flimsy script gives little in the way of characterization, plot, or even empathy, and it shows—big time. Stewart actually emerges as the surprise MVP of “Huntsman.” Although she gets little to do, she fits into the character perfectly. Hemsworth lends his talents to playing a brute whose name isn’t Thor, but he gives the character enough personality differences and nuance to make it a wholly different portrayal. Theron completely disregards nuance in her characterization of the antagonist Ravenna, making for a curious mix of brilliance and schlock. For better or for worse, she’s the most exciting thing about “Huntsman.” The film makes for an enjoyable watch thanks to some great action and generally well-tuned lead performances. Additionally, detailed costuming and set decorations provide a nice visual aesthetic, but the script keeps it from being anything extraordinary, or even particularly good.” Rating: 5.5/10
Kieran thought: “Mirror mirror on the wall, who chews the scenery most of all? In a summer with two Charlize Theron movies, she really enjoys her role as the evil queen in Snow White and the Huntsman as she is given free range with her performance in an entertainingly over-the-top fashion. The rest of the cast is decent, from Hemsworth in a more stoic role, even if his accent is all over the place, to Stewart, who was much better then expected. Sam Claflin is solid as the Prince and much better than his role in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Sanders shows visual flair, giving us strong action scenes that blend practical effects and CGI. He creates an interesting high medieval fantasy world filled with grit. The costumes and the art-direction were amazing, but Sanders’ pacing is off, making the movie too long and bloated in the middle. The Snow White reference felt more tacked on.” Rating: 6.5/10
John thought: “Snow White and the Huntsman is a concept in search of a cinematic purpose. Because its creators can’t find it, they attempt to win their audience over with flashy, extravagant special effects. They fail. The film is an almost painful watch. It’s incredibly episodic, and the connective tissue between scenes is flimsier than tissue paper. The special effects, while impressive, are totally overdone, and the seemingly capable cast proves unable to make up for the film’s gargantuan narrative deficiencies.” Rating: 4.5/10