Director: Rupert Sanders
Writer: Evan Daugherty (screenplay & screen story), John Lee Hancock (screenplay), Hossein Amini (screenplay)
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone
In this rendition of Snow White, the Huntsman is tasked with searching for and retrieving the lost princess but winds up being her protector in her quest to vanquish the evil queen Ravenna.
After March’s Mirror Mirror we have the second re-imagining of the classic Snow White fairy tail. Whereas the Tarsem Singh version was lighter in tone with a more comedic aspect to it, Rupert Sanders’ version is of a darker gothic aesthetic. Now I missed out on Mirror Mirror, so this won’t include any comparison between the two films. Instead, I went into this movie with mixed feelings. Visually the film looked impressive with a fantasy world that reminded me of the Lord of the Rings films with a touch of both Guillermo Del Toro and Hayao Miyazaki. Despite that, I was a bit wary for the film considering that Snow White was to be played by Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame, and needless to say, she hasn’t been well known for her acting ability thanks to those films.
After entering the movie with mixed feelings, I came out of the movie with even more mixed feelings about it as a whole. There’s a lot to be liked about Snow White and the Huntsman, but there’s also a lot to be frustrated about it. Part of it is that this is directed by first time director Rupert Sanders. This is Sanders’ first feature film after getting some recognition for his directed short film for Halo 3: ODST. That being the case, there’s a little room for me to accept some of his shortcomings as he learns what it takes to direct a feature film, but at the same time there’s also some glaring flaws that just can’t be ignored. It’s not just with him, but also with the writers, as the third act of the film almost falls apart for me—more on that later.
Before I get to what he manages to do right it’s important that I address his biggest shortcoming of the movie, which is how he handles his leading actress—or seemingly leading actress—Kristen Stewart as Snow White. Now this film is supposed to be a “vehicle” for Stewart to further her career beyond the Twilight franchise and it felt like Sanders took that word literally because for nearly the entirety of the film she feels like she’s there for the ride. Her character of Snow White isn’t given much to do and I’m unsure of whether that was on the writer’s side, the director’s side, Stewart’s side or a combination of the three. It’s not as if I thought her performance was bad—it was passable in, my opinion—it’s just frustrating to follow her on screen because she doesn’t have much dialogue written for her. Mostly, Kristen Stewart just feels like she’s literally sleeping through her role.
Here’s where I have some mixed feelings because as poorly written, directed and passably performed the character of Snow White is, Charlize Theron’s Queen Ravenna is the complete opposite. I found Ravenna to be a well written character, directed well and Theron gives a great perthformance—as expected of an Oscar winner. Not saying that this is an Oscar-worthy performance, but Theron and the writers gave depth to the character of the evil queen to the point that she almost comes off as a sympathetic. You feel more for her character than for you do for Snow White and it feels odd that they characterize Ravenna more. The only explanation I can think of is that it’s hard to try and do more for a character that’s written to be so pure and perfect, which to me just feels like a cop out more than anything with how underdeveloped Snow White is.
As for the film’s other lead character, the Huntsman played by Chris Hemsworth is also given much more depth. In the original fairy tale he is simply hired to kill Snow White but is unable to and instead fakes her death to the queen. Here things are re-written to have him searching for her in the Dark Forest where he eventually becomes her protector and mentor through their journey together. Part of the reason for this is because Snow White reminds him of his deceased wife. It’s an angle to his character that hasn’t been done before and Hemsworth gives a pretty good performance in the role. The only fault I found with his character was how the writers handled the relationship been him and Snow White as it’s unclear by the film’s end just what they mean to each other.
The real highlight was the world that was created for Snow White and the Huntsman. As mentioned earlier, I found the film’s design to have influences from a variety of sources from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Guillermo Del Toro and even Hayao Miyazaki as arious scenes in the film felt heavily inspired by those films and directors. That isn’t to say the film wasn’t without its own original takes on things; my favourite aspect of the film were the dwarves and who the film cast in those roles. There’s a ton of recognizable faces including Ian McShane (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz), Ray Winstone (Thor), Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes) and Toby Jones (Captain America: The First Avenger), just to name a few, and they were all great for what little screen time they shared together. Though they were my favourite part of the film, there wasn’t enough of them for me in the movie and I feel as if they could be expanded upon into their own film.
Where this movie nearly falls apart for me is in its third act. The film spends its first two acts exploring this world and its various characters from protagonists to antagonists, but when it comes to the third and final act the movie just tries to wrap things up way too quickly. It felt way too rushed with a conclusion and climax that come off as idiotic. It tried to sell the climax as an epic battle, but to me it was anything but that. The climactic battle was sloppy, poorly handled and forced. It didn’t flow naturally into the movie’s writing and just felt like it was there for the sake of selling the movie as a summer Hollywood blockbuster. The writing as a whole was a mixed bag, with moments that are great for the characters, but an equal amount of moments that feel unneeded.
As I said earlier I left the movie with mixed feelings. It’s visually pleasing with its gothic aesthetic and wonderful performances by Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth along with many of the film’s supporting cast. However, Kristen Stewart isn’t given much to do with Snow White in a movie that’s supposed to be about her character. Snow White and the Huntsman with all that it does to expand on its characters and the world it inhabits felt like it should have been turned into a mini-series a la Game of Thrones rather than have become a theatrical film. That’s just my personal opinion, though.
Overall, the movie is just a mixed bag of good and bad for first time director Rupert Sanders, but there is more good than bad and I was left more satisfied than disappointed in this movie.
GO Rating: 3/5