SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMEN Review

The most disappointing thing about Snow White & the Huntsmen is the fact that it just wasn't as grand as it should have been. Period. There could be no more to this review than that and it would be understood what I thought about it and why I think it. That it were a disappointment and that it could have been more. This is a case of when a movie looks truly promising and epic in the trailers but ends up in the final product being something much closer to bland. It elicits no real response from the audience while telling a story we have all seen before without offering any real variance on it. The characters are there and some of them are greatly realized but the anchor of the film, that title character is anything but. The film looks gorgeous and first time feature director Rupert Sanders surely knows where to place his camera and how to create a large, sweeping landscape look like exactly that while allowing imaginative enough creatures to inhabit these lands. In many ways the film seemed to reference a Guillermo Del Toro type tone with its roots in fiction and a layer of weird added over it, but what falls short here is the storytelling. We know the story, the problem is not that but instead lies in finding a new, fresh way to look at it. There is certainly more than one way to approach a story and while Snow White & the Huntsmen is of course the more darker of the Snow White tales out this year and has a definite vision it lacks a singular voice. It lacks a hero we can really believe in.

Snow White (Kristen Stewart) readies herself to scare off a troll by,
get this, screaming at it. Somehow, it works.
Needless to say the real source of the problem here is none other than Kristen Stewart. I have wanted to give her the benefit of the doubt, I really have. I even watched the first two Twilight films to try and give the series a shot but just couldn't go past that. I think Robert Pattinson certainly has a career outside of Edward, but things are beginning to look slim for Stewart. She seems much better when in secondary roles as in Adventureland and Into the Wild. I even enjoyed her in The Runaways and am anxious to see how she fares in the upcoming adaptation of Jack Kerouac's On the Road but here she just doesn't have the skill to handle it. She is supposed to be portraying the fairest of them all, a princess who in this version has some real fight in her and decides to take matters into her own hands. When going up against the concoction of a witch that Charlize Theron has devised you need someone who can portray those strong qualities with real vindication and Stewart is simply to frail and feeble an actress to go for it. Speaking of Ms. Theron, she certainly has outdone Mirror Mirror's Julia Roberts in every way of portraying the evil Queen. While in Roberts defense hers was a much lighter role, Theron has brought her A-game to the table and is resilient in her commitment to the over the top qualities of her character. When she commits to a trait she sticks with it and we see that play out through the whole of the story. In the beginning, that necessary bit of exposition, focuses heavily on the evil Queen known here as Ravenna and how she is on a quest to simply stay young, earn her immortality no matter what it takes. Her life-long mission doubles as a message about the role of women in society but then we forget about all that because the film decides to take long breaks from the Queen and focus more on the heroine who can't seem to make us care.

The Huntsmen (Chris Hemsworth) joins the dwarfs to try and help
Snow White defeat the evil Queen.
While I enjoy the idea of these fairy tales being turned into big live action epics, it goes without saying that all of them have fared pretty poorly in their transition. I didn't mind the Tim Burton take on Alice in Wonderland but I didn't necessarily care for it either. I didn't care at all for Catherine Hardwicke's Red Riding Hood attempt last year though it had plenty of talent going for it. Snow White & the Huntsmen is definitely the best out of the bunch, but again, that really isn't saying much. The Grimm inspirations are in place from the beginning as Ravenna takes over Snow White and her fathers kingdom. She kills her poor dad on their wedding night and locks the princess up in one of the towers. Ravenna is content with devouring young girls looks to keep her the fairest in the land while running the kingdom into the ground, that is, until one day the mirror has some different news to report. We find out the queen needs Snow White's heart to keep her forever youthful and immortal while allowing her to continue her reign as fairest of them all. Wouldn't you know on that same day Snow White decides she has it in her to escape. She does so and is chased into the dark forest by the Queens guards and albino brother with that pesky haircut. The Queen really needs that heart though and so she recruits the Huntsmen (Thor himself Chris Hemsworth) and sends him out to bring her back. We know he isn't going to bring her back, we certainly know they will fall in love but I do have to give the story some credit for allowing itself to not rely on the love aspect of this whole deal. Snow White and Thor team-up, meet the dwarfs and round up the refugee army led by Snow White's papa's old Duke (and his son who therein lies the love triangle) to storm the castle and kill the Queen. Sound familiar? It is and it is sometimes just as slow and sloggish as you might expect a two hour telling of that story to be, but alas it has its moments dammit!

Ravenna (Charlize Theron) talks to her mirror, mirror on the wall.
As in Mirror, Mirror one of the highlights here is certainly the set of the seven dwarfs. In this more serious version we have a regal group of actors portraying the helpful and prophesying companions. Bob Hoskins leads the crew as Muir who is the one real anchor of heart in the film. He allows us to see what Stewart should have been playing, what her character should represent rather than the awkward invert that Stewart is giving us. I hate to point the finger at Stewart so much as she might be a really cool chick who is just trying to do her thing the best she can, but she is the one who has chosen to take on this role. She knew if she had the chops to pull it off or not and she should have known her persona was not going to allow her the right qualities to play this character correctly. Take the job because you think you can give the best representation of the character not because it will add another hit to your resume. That is where I have the problem with Stewart, this has nothing to do with her public persona, who she is dating, or what the tabloids are saying; this is purely based on her range as an actress and I don't think she had what it takes to pull it off and I think she knew that too. It is clear when it comes down to that final rallying speech where you should want to stand up in the theater and join the fight. All I and everyone else in the screening could do was hold back laughter as she yelled her lines to the audience. Delivering not a shred of real emotion or genuine relation to the words she was saying. No, she was simply spouting her lines in a higher volume. There are plenty of reasons to see the film, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, and Nick Frost all offer lovely supporting bits as the dwarfs and Hemsworth does his best with an underdeveloped cliche as well as the part about it looking amazing. The end no doubt is left open for a sequel and let us only hope that the studio decides to go Bond style on this potential franchise and casts another actress in the title role next time she decides to go all Joan of Arc.