Film Review by Joybells Hanley
Can you hear the soil slowly sifting? Yes? Its Walt Disney turning in his grave at this deliciously dark adaptation of the classic fairy tale ‘Snow White’! A far cry from Disney’s own animated, saccharine story, ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ directed by Rupert Sanders comes closer to the menacing tale I remember reading under the bedclothes as a little girl. A mother dying in childbirth, a wicked queen teetering on the edge of madness, a magical mirror and a Huntsman charged with bringing back the heart of a young princess on the verge of womanhood. I know which version I prefer!
Snow White played with pouty defiance by Kristen Stewart fresh from her Vampire exploits in the Twilight franchise is a feisty ‘Joan of Arc’ type. Wide eyed and impressing us with a surfeit of expressions from looking anxious to looking more anxious. Having escaped the clutches of the wicked queen, she sets out to avenge her father’s murder and the mistreatment of his once happy subjects, now living in abject, very muddy poverty.
Actor Chris Hemsworth, last seen in ‘Thor’ reprises his axe wielding ways as the belligerent, mead swilling ‘Huntsman’. Sent into the dark forest to bring back Snow White’s heart for immediate consumption by the nefarious queen Ravenna, he is motivated by the promise of his dead wife’s resurrection. Gory stuff! His accent gravitates towards Scottish, but after Russell Crowe’s consonant malfunction in Robin Hood, it’s not that bad when you get used to it. He’s easy on the eye, but like Stewart he only has one expression, that of intense seriousness, which he can manipulate in degrees from mild concern to severe gravitas.
The real star though is Charlize Theron. As the evil queen, her encroaching madness creeps between cloudy contemplation and violent storm. There’s a brief back story that allows her a little sympathy with a sprinkling of sorcery to explain how she came to be doing what she’s doing. Beautifully fragile and sadistically malevolent in turns, her obsession with being ‘fairest of them all’ parodies the modern world where more money is spent on Botox and breast implants than neo natal care.
Given that I used to drool over Ian McShane in 'Lovejoy', he and his fellow ’dwarfs’ are barely recognisable in their prosthetic noses, warts and CG bodies. Other actors submitting to this height restrictive metamorphosis include a Mohican haired Ray Winston, basically playing himself (pugnacious, hard man with cockney accent), Bob Hoskins (blind mystic with cockney accent) and the dopey Nick Frost (on a solo outing minus Simon Pegg) with a cockney accent. Their comedic contribution comes late in the film, but as facilitators they move Snow White and the Huntsman from the forest to the castle of Duke Hammond, an old friend of Snow White’s father and into battle with queen Ravenna.
Sam Spruell, playing the Queen’s brother Finn ticks all the ‘looking like a psycho’ boxes but the pantomime repartee is a bit clumsy as is a lot of the clunky dialogue.
The overlong film stutters and hops; I can only think the self-mutilating river women idea was a concession to the script writer because he’d paid the bar bill the night before. The dark forest was more like a shady copse and I’ve seen more chemistry on the top of mouldy jam than between Stewart and Hemsworth. For the 12A rating I thought a passionate kiss and a fondle on the forest floor were obligatory.
Fortunately the fight scenes are crisp, ferocious and well executed and the mighty onslaughts of Ravenna’s glass army are fast paced, providing explosive action. The visuals are stunning, from brooding sky seascapes to fairy dell imaginings and the story revision gives us a determined heroine who takes the initiative and makes decisions.
It’s a different take on Hollywood’s Snow White offering from earlier this year ‘Mirror Mirror’, and for me an improvement. It’s entertaining and will no doubt attract a pubescent audience who lay in bed at night imagining they’re Kristen Stewart showing Chris Hemsworth just how to wield his axe, or was that just me?
I wasn’t disappointed; it’s a fairy tale after all. I got what I expected.