Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Snow White and the Huntsman is a muscular Lord of the Rings style epic adaptation of the fairy tale. Of course everyone knows the story so I was interested in the execution. Cinematographically, it is beautiful. The costumes are original and richly creative. The special effects are stunning. The movie is instilled with a foreboding evil. We get it, the Evil Queen makes everyone miserable, so much so that anything beautiful refuses to flower or has fled her unfortunate land or is in hiding. What I don't quite understand is why this story deserved an epic treatment.

Charlize Theron plays the evil queen, Ravenna, who has effectively taken over the kingdom from Snow White's father with the help of the black arts. She keeps Snow White, played by Kristen Stewart, locked away in a cold, dark tower. As Snow White grows up she becomes a threat to Ravenna, her powers remain for as long as she continues to be the fairest of them all. Once Snow White becomes fairer, her powers will begin to wane. Snow White finds a way to escape and ends up in the Dark Forest, where Ravenna's sorcery does not reach. To find and capture Snow White, the Queen sends out a huntsman, played by Chris Hemsworth, who knows the Dark Forest. Ravenna promises to bring his dead wife back to life if he brings back Snow White's heart. Of course, the huntsman ends up being Snow White's ally, and they are joined by the, you guessed it, seven dwarves. You can guess how the rest will end.

The problem with the movie is that Ravenna is more interesting than Snow White. Theron is a beautiful woman and imbues her character with a complexity born from tragedy and twisted circumstances. The combination of physical beauty and very good acting skills make the Ravenna character far more sympathetic than Stewart's Snow White which is very one-dimensional. Hemsworth's huntsman character is interesting because he also has a sympathetic back story but again, the character is not well developed. The seven dwarves are nothing more than interesting window dressing. There is no doubt that Snow White and her subjects in the kingdom are suffering but there is no sense that the battle between Ravenna and Snow White is the turning point of an epic story. There are some interesting twists; there is no prince, the evil queen has an evil brother, and Snow White is no longer a passive figure. In the end, I felt as if I've seen a movie full of sound and fury but signifying nothing. The movie is directed by Rupert Sanders and he's thrown in several iconic scenes from other movies which is somewhat jarring; I kept thinking "Oh this is a little like the movie so and so". It did this movie a great disservice and perhaps in the hands of a more skilled director, this dark movie that combines swash-buckling action and fantasy would have been much more original.

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