Is there anyone out there that was excited by not one but two movies coming out less than two months apart from each other that both were re-imaginings of Snow White? I sure wasn't. The first one to come out was Mirror, Mirror with Julia Roberts that looked so bad, people were writing it off faster than critics who actually sat through it were. But then there was this other one called Snow White and The Huntsman. It was darker, more action, less whimsical but unfortunately it starred Kristen Stewart, which instantly turned a lot of people away. I was one of them and I'm glad that I still went to see it.
The classic fairy tale is basically just a rough guideline for this film from director Rupert Sanders. It's a very impressive first film for a guy that Hollywood knows very little about. Not only did he impress with scrubbing all the happiness and color off the beloved Disney version we all know, but he assembled a way impressive cast too. Don't be fooled, Kristen Stewart may have the most screen time but she's far from the star. Under utlilizing her is the smartest move Sanders makes. She says very little, slinks into the background and is completely forgettable as Snow White. A great idea considering that I think she's one of the worst A-list actresses working today. This movie belongs to everything and everyone but her.
Charlize Theron squeezes the enjoyment out of every single scene she's in with a huge smile on her face. The Oscar-winner is a treat to see in most films anyway but in this she drips with the perfect mix of over-acting, menace and neurotic motivations. The Evil Queen's drive in this version of Snow White is very pro-woman; she must devour the essences of young attractive girls to stay young and attractive herself because she knows that's the only true power in the world. Whoa! Deep! Although all the feminist messages are dashed against the rocks when you realize she's told all this by The Magic Mirror, who's voiced by a man. Instead of a great womanly plight, The Evil Queen feels more like a victim being taken advantage of.
As for the other part of the title, Chris Hemsworth (Thor, The Avengers) proves his chops as a leading man with staying power. Although we don't see him until we're over a half out into the over two-hour-long film, he conquers every frame with the swagger of a 1980s Bruce Willis. He plays the cliche action male lead who's tortured by his past but still has funny quips and kicks ass with impressive skill. Even his unneccessary Scottish accent feels skilled.
But what about The Seven Dwarves, you may say. Well, they're in this but not till we're an hour into the film; but once they're there, they're the best part of the movie. They're not the lovable Dopey and company from the Disney film however. These dwarves are surly killers who don't look huggable at all. They're played by a who's-who's of British actors that include Ray Winstone (The Departed, Hugo), Ian McShane (HBO's Deadwood, Pirates of the Carribbean 4), Bob Hoskins (Hook, Who Framed Roger Rabbit), Tobey Jones (the Harry Potter films, The Mist) and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Paul). They are the soul of the film and make it better instantly.
The film has battle scenes, dirty castles, creepy villains and monsters. After a while it does start to feel a bit Lord of the Rings-y and that might be a turn off for some people. It starts off slow as hell and almost verges into boring, but take my word for it that it picks up. The ending is rushed but fun and the FX are sublte where they have to be and big to make a point at times. It's true that this ain't your Disney film but that's not such a bad thing. Not every Snow White film needs songs, am I right?
Snow White and The Huntsman (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: B