Snow White and the Huntsman (Out Now)
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Ray Winstone
Director: Rupert Sanders
Rated: PG (Roth Films/Universal)
A retelling of Snow White promised to return the Brothers Grimm back to its dark folklore roots and away from the dainty sweetness of the classic Disney fantasy but can young British director Rupert Sanders take this rich tale of jealousy and vanity any further than skin deep?
This isn’t 2012′s first version of the lovely girl poisoned by an apple but forget that Julia Roberts stinker ‘Mirror Mirror’, Sigourney Weaver set the bar for scary, evil queens in the made-for-TV ‘Snow White: A Tale of Terror’ all the way back in 1997. Charlize Theron is willing to have a fair crack at the barmy crown as Queen Ravenna, who, to achieve immortality, must kill Snow White but in the meantime maintains her youth by sucking the life from all the rest of the fair maidens while desperately questioning a gold mirror of her eminence.
Sanders, a former advert director, is determined to keep the gothic factor high in the form of bleakly blasted landscapes and trippy, nightmarish forests that puff out hallucinogenic dust, empty beaches and soaring cliff tops – a land ruined by a bloodthirsty monarch. The story slightly subverts from the accepted norm as the Huntsman (a rugged, no-nonsense Hemsworth complete with a bewildered Australian/Scottish accent) is far more of a love interest than the slightly sappy Prince William, while Theron’s Queen Ravenna is ramped up into a deranged, screaming Elizabeth Bathory type. In order to match the scenery chewing Ravenna (complete with truly stunning costumes by Colleen Atwood), Snow White is a tough cookie hell-bent on survival. Stewart’s casting is unsurprising as she’s becoming a shoe-in for playing delicate limbed creatures with a steel core but it’s also uninspiring.
In fact, her Snow is barely a stretch from the stubborn, steely Bella of Twilight… at the crucial poisoning scene you could be mistaken for thinking you were watching a re-enactment of Bella’s writhing moments as she’s chomped on by James. Perhaps this unchallenging role is why Stewart moves through the film as if in a bored daydream, never really engaging the audience with her plight of a murdered father and a bounty on her heart. Even the revenge, as she gallops Joan Of Arc style across the beach with her army, feels flat. At best her po-faced Snow is merely a counterbalance to her co-stars’ OTT characters.
SNATH lacks the makings of a classic (and at 127 minutes feels overly long) but could have been a satisfying summer popcorn blockbuster had it not been that while Sanders brings home the visuals, the script falls down at every turn and, as a man used to selling a vision more than a story, he seems little perturbed by the problem. Theron gamely wrestles to give hammy dialogue some manic depth, while the dwarves (which include Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins and Nick Frost) are comedic relief, which, given their rakish appearance and sarky personalities, is screen-writing laziness. The Prince and the King are virtual non-entities, leaving only Ravenna’s spectacularly creepy (and oft hinted at incestuous) brother, Finn (Sam Spruell) to claim his supporting role with aplomb.
There’s little beyond some stunning scenery and Theron’s suitably unhinged rantings to give Snow White and the Huntsman any oompf. Given that this was a re-imagining rather than an original concept, the sky should have been the limit in the way that LOTR broke the mold, however, Sanders and his cast are merely bumping their foreheads on the Hollywood glass ceiling of predictability.