Not totally sure I understand where this recent Snow White revival is coming from (in April, we had the diverting Mirror Mirror, with a game Julia Roberts as the evil queen), but to be honest, I’m kinda glad it’s over.
Of course, the fairy tale still resonates, but it has a somewhat awkward message for these modern times, especially when repackaged as a girl power fantasy. No matter how you slice it—and in this film, Snow White (Kristen Stewart) dons chain mail and gives a St Crispin’s Day-style speech before leading her troops into battle—it’s still a movie about a woman who will do anything to stay youthful and beautiful, including kill off all young female comers. In other words, beauty is the most important power, perhaps the only power, a woman can wield. Uh . . .yay?
Anyway, this remix has certain things in common with Mirror Mirror—both films are art directed within an inch of their lives, and both could fill a museum with their beautiful, if somewhat sterile, set pieces—but while Mirror Mirror was campy and winking (Nathan Lane was the Queen’s right hand man—enough said), Snow White and the Huntsman is as dark and serious as a poison apple.
Mirror Mirror used real dwarves, cracking wise, this one uses full-sized Shakespearean actors shrunken down to dwarf size. (How’d they do that anyway?). Because I’m distracted by such things, I spent a solid 10 minutes trying to figure out who was who under that dwarf makeup, so if you are similarly afflicted, you might want to check imdb.com before heading out to the theater (for the record, yes, that’s Toby Jones, Ian McShane, and Bob Hoskins, among others.)
Charlize Theron is something of a force of nature as the Queen. There’s no point in holding back in a role like this—and she doesn’t. She’s almost comically shrill and ferocious at times, but it works. Also, it’s quite easy to believe that she truly is the “fairest of them all.”
Which brings me to Kristen Stewart. I hate to talk about the beauty of an actress, but of course, this film encourages that.
Don’t get me wrong, Stewart is plenty pretty, but she’s hardly a graceful creature—she’s a bit of a galumpher (that’s why she made a good Bella Swan, who is supposed to be clumsy). I think she was cast to lure in the Twilight set—correct that, I know she was cast to lure in the Twilight set—but it was hard to wrap my mind around Stewart as a threat to Theron in the “fairest of them all” department. (Sorry, it had to be said.)
I did like the casting of Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth, as the hunter who first tracks down Snow White and later becomes her protector. He has a deep, resonant voice that gives him a kind of epic stature (hench the whole demigod thing)—and, come to think of it, he might be the fairest of them all.
In fact, the true hero of the story is director Rupert Sanders who comes up with all sort of visual goodies: The Queen’s milk bath and her gloved talons, her Dark Army that shatters into shards of black glass, a dark forest teeming with eye-poppingly repulsive creatures, and a giant ogre/monster who is charmed into submission by Snow White.
All of this is magical to look at, truly stunning, but there isn’t much beyond that. The plot is pat and stale and, except for a scene where Snow White visits a village of women who have intentionally scarred themselves to avoid the enmity of the queen, it all feels like plot servicing the visuals, not the other way around.
As television begins to excel in more and more genres—horror and fantasy being recent strong suits—the bar has been raised for similar films. That being said, I’d much rather be watching Game of Thrones.