This year of re-envisioned fairy tales on TV and film continues with the release of Snow White and the Huntsman, the darkest Snow White of them all. If J.R.R. Tolkien had written Snow White, mashed-up her character with Joan of Arc, then threw in some additional Grimms’ Fairy Tales for good measure; you would probably end up with a story that resembles this incredible, if not quite fulfilling, film.
In this new Snow White, the enduring story of the orphaned princess, with “skin white as snow, lips red as blood and hair black as night,” is all still intact, but amped up with epic battles between her and her evil step-mother/queen. Other Grimm stories have been intermingled into to this fantasy tale, like a spectacular sequence with a troll guarding a bridge and a truly enchanting forest that is one of the coolest ever captured on film.
Kristen Stewart, who most people know as Bella from the Twilight Saga, plays Snow White with a blend of innocence, beauty and gutsy gracefulness. While I’m certain many Twilight haters will be armed and ready to slam Snow White and the Huntsman for its casting of Stewart, I believe her fine portrayal of Snow will go a long way towards breaking her out of the Bella Swan box.
The Huntsman of the film’s title is played by Chris Hemsworth (Thor), the current ‘god’ of the summer movie blockbuster, with Cabin in the Woods, The Avengers and Snow White and the Huntsman notched into his hammer already, he still has the Red Dawn remake to come later this year. He does a great job in this part as the man sent to kill the fair princess, but instead feels sympathy and love for her (like all the beasts) and ends up caring for the fair maiden and teaching her to defend herself.
The evil queen, Ravenna, is played with uninhibited wickedness by Charlize Theron (Hancock), who steals the show with her beautifully ugly depiction of a witch who has lived 20 lifetimes by absorbing the life-force of innocent young women. Ms. Theron completely embodies the gothic fantasy villainous who, at least on the surface, is fifty-times fairer than Snow White.
Snow White and the Huntsman is endlessly inventive and its special effects are topnotch. Of special note is a stunning transformation that has the evil queen turning into a murder of crows and then back again. I also loved the brilliant plot point that had Snow hiding amongst a village of women who had intentionally scarred themselves so that the queen would not attempt to steal their youth and beauty.
There is some minor clunkiness in this picture, with some scenes that seemed awkward and ill-conceived. Many of Snow White and the Huntsman’s potential horror aspects have been harnessed and toned down; and that is a shame. My biggest complaint with this movie is that it didn’t go dark enough and thus missed the opportunity to be a truly classic film.
Although there are many battles in this film, there is very little blood; and while there is some restrained sexuality, the creators never come close to crossing the line. The movie constantly teases you with evil atrociousness, but in the end it is very tame and never fully delivers on its devious promise.
If you are going to remake a children’s story standard and infuse it with more adult themed darkness, then why not go all the way? My guess is that the studio was willing to compromise the artistic integrity of this film so that they could earn the PG-13 dollars that they would otherwise miss had this film been given a ‘Restricted’ rating. Nonetheless, Snow White and the Huntsman is an effective and entertaining grown-up version of the classic fairy tale.