Snow White and the Huntsman – Film Review

There are two things that connect this weekend’s big releases, Snow White and the Huntsman and Prometheus. The first is the rather talented Oscar winner Charlize Theron playing cold, dead-eyed bitter types with a propensity to say the word “Father” with an overly melodramatic touch. The second connection is their misdirected marketing campaign. Because “From a producer of Alice In Wonderland” conjures up a mess of a movie that Snow White doesn’t come close to touching. But then “From a writer of Drive” doesn’t really motivate the busting of blocks in key demographics.

Stop us if you’ve heard this one. Snow White, princess and prettiest girl in the land, loses mother and father in quick succession (careless) and is placed under the protection of her evil stepmother. Not one for child-rearing Evil Queen puts Snow in a tower until she comes of age. Snow escapes. Queen sends Hunter after Snow. To quote Andrew Bird, “I know this one, I know this song, I know this one, I know this song, I know this one…”

Screenwriting professors looking for a subject or two for their adaptation classes should look no further than two of 2012’s Disneyless White’s, Mirror, Mirror and Snow White and the Huntsman. As different as Chalky White and Cheese Wagstaff, the same story is told in two very different ways with the former frolicking in colour and song, where the latter opts for mud and turmoil. The surprise is that SWATH goes where you wouldn’t expect over and over again making a genuine case for being a true Grimm tale.

Don’t believe us, try molestation, hallucination and self-mutilation for just a few of the ‘treats’ on offer to TwiHards turning up just for a bit of K-Stew. You can add to that horses drowning in mud, two instances of crawling through a river of shit and a case of suggested incest that would make the Lannisters proud. Speaking of, this may be the most influence the HBO show has had yet. The trickledown of TV to the Big Screen always takes a year or two, thanks to lengthy shoots and release schedules, but there’s little doubt that more of this ‘Game of Thrones influenced’ fare will come.

Casting Snow has the same inherent problems as casting Helen of Troy; nobody can truly live up to the legend of the beauty. While all talk of appearance is ultimately subjective (smiling would be a key factor though) there is some virtue in casting Kristen Stewart as this particular Ms. White. Since her first major role in Panic Room, Stewart has always had an air of androgyny removed as Bella Swan. Here, as the Woman King, sword in hand, she almost pulls off the part. If she was just a little stronger she could help the audience shed the baggage of those films but where it really counts, in the hero scenes, she can’t muster the acting muscles to do it. She’s Joan, just off the mark.

But unlike Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror, director (and new hot Brit talent) Rupert Sanders lets Snow White actually be the centre of attention in a Snow White film. Even if the lead isn’t quite as adept at holding the screen as her fellow players. Chris Hemsworth as a drunken Scot Huntsman – think Thor by way of Forfar – does the business. Charlize, helped inordinately by a script that actually gives her character a motive, holds the focus of the first act. That she’s barely needed in the mid-section does lead to one fairly useless scene of histrionics in which she seems to invoke her ‘challenged’ character from Arrested Development.

But even the worst scene in this latest Snow White is seven million miles better than watching Phil Collins daughter prance around with a Winklevoss. I Believe.

It lags in the middle but for the most part it’s as solid as a castle wall. Snow White and the Huntsman may be a little too black for really wee kids, yet this take on the fairytale – complete with trolls, dwarves and fairies – contains enough magic and darkness to capture what the Brothers Grimm were really all about. Far and away the fairest Snow of the year.