IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 127 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Little Snow White’s mother dies during child birth and her father remarries the ruthless Queen Ravenna, who has already conquered several of England’s kingdoms and has supernatural powers including the ability to keep young by sucking the life force out of victims. After Revenna kills her father and locks Snow White in a tower, the years pass until the day where Ravenna learns from her Magic Mirror that she will be overthrown by her stepdaughter, who will also surpass her as the “Fairest of Them All”. The only way for Ravenna to remain in power is to consume Snow White’s heart and achieve immortality. Snow White manages to escape into the Dark Forest and evade her pursuers, but then the Queen summons a Huntsman named Eric to kill the Princess, promising Eric she will restore to life his dead wife…….
A few months earlier, it all seemed rather simple. Mirror Mirror was to be the ‘good’ and even ‘artistic’ version of Snow White, with Tarsem Singh bringing his visual brilliance to the classic tale,but Snow White And The Huntsman was to be the ‘Twi-fan’ attracting, ‘dumbed-down’ version. Then Mirror Mirror came out and it was seriously below par, though certainly watchable. It also seemed very much aimed at the girls, with its bright colours and emphasise on romance and humour. Snow White And The Huntsman now not only promised to be a great deal better but rather more aimed at the boys, with battles, monsters, a Lord Of The Rings feel. Well, it is considerably better, and not just aimed at boys either; it tries hard to put in something for everyone. It seems that this could be the box office hit Mirror Mirror wasn’t, though of course it has a certain film that isn’t to do with Alien and, for a few days, a certain somebody’s birthday in the UK, to contend with!
It deserves to be successful, because this is a really solid fantasy adventure that continues the run of rather good blockbuster-type movies that we have been having recently. Now right from the offset this is a far darker outing than you might expect, even more so than Sigourney Weaver’s 1997 version, with Ravenna stabbing her newly-acquired husband in bed, sucking the life-force out of people, and an Enchanted Forest that is a really scary place to be, with hallucinogenic fungi spores conjuring up things like tree branches becoming snakes and ghost-like beings looming out of the fog. The tone is really grim, and I am not automatically a fan of making everything ‘dark’, but Snow White is a ‘dark’ tale and it all seems very appropriate. In any case, the story is followed surprisingly closely for at least the first half, and even with an increasing number of changes, the tale is told with conviction. Mirror Mirror didn’t seem to believe in what it was telling. This film does.
Of course there is still some humour when the dwarves finally appear though to be honest they are one of the least successful aspects of the film. They don’t feature enough, and though we have big names like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone play them, the way they’ve digitally placed the actor’s heads on shrunken bodies just doesn’t look right. Those tired of all the darkness will though be rewarded by a beautifully rendered ‘good’ part of the Enchanted Forest where the colour simply jumps out at you after all the greys and blacks you’ve been experiencing. With fairies riding on animals and a meeting with who seems like Bambi several years on, it seems like you are really in a combination of a live action version of a great Disney movie and a great fantasy painting, and I loved it.
The pacing slows somewhat in the second half and for a while I had scary flashbacks to Twilight with the introduction of two guys who both want Snow White, but thankfully it’s not dwelled upon. The action throughout has a rough and ready quality which helps one really believe in the fantasy word created, though as usual some of it is cut too fast for my liking. I like to see action, not be made to feel I am part of it or get sore eyes. By the general standards of these days it isn’ t too bad though. The climactic showdown feels a little rushed, perhaps because we tend to be spoilt for action climaxes these days. An opening battle hints that there will be more of its like to come and it isn’t really so. I would love, one day, to see a version where they use the ending from the original story, with things such as Ravenna made to wear iron shoes and dance herself to death.
The special effects, including the best looking troll I’ve ever seen in a film, are great throughout. Ravenna’s occasional aging is done seamlessly and often quite subtly. Her whole part of the film is very well done indeed, especially the creepy being that comes out of her mirror. Considering how close Snow White And The Huntsman is to the horror movie in places, I was reminded of Countess Elizabeth Bathory here, and Ravenna is absolutely superbly played by Charlize Theron, who sometimes allows to feel a little bit of sympathy for her, suggesting past events which have shaped her into the cruel villainess she has become.
I was, I must admit, disappointed in Kristen Stewart. A capable actress when at a very young age, she was abysmal in the Twi-shite movies but, considering she is so very nice to look at and was the main reason I sat through those awful films, I hoped it was just due to the material. Sadly, she’s still quite weak here, with a constant pained expression as if she needs to take a dump. She just doesn’t seem natural, though I will say she has a ‘movie star’ presence. Chris Hemsworth, who has improved considerably since Thor, is really fun as her brawling, drunken love interest, but his part seems a little truncated. There is awkward editing here and there and the film doesn’t totally flow, but overall first time director Rupert Sanders does a really impressive job here, just about keeping control of a big, major studio production while giving it some artistry. Snow White And The Huntsman is far better than it has a right to be. Maybe the talk about live action versions of two other fairy tales which made classic Disney films, Beauty And The Beast and Sleeping Beauty, is not so worrying after all……