Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is fairest of them all?
“Snow White and the Huntsman,” yet another adaptation of the Grimm Brothers’ classic fairy tale, opened in U.S. theaters June 1.
The story of Snow White has made quite a comeback recently. Recent adaptations have reinterpreted the Disney classic, including the whimsical live-action feature “Mirror Mirror” and the dark ABC television drama “Once Upon a Time.” But for “Huntsman,” director Rupert Sanders puts a grisly spin on the story.
The film begins as a distraught king (Noah Huntley) leads his soldiers to victory after the death of his wife. He is instantly enchanted with a beautiful and mysterious captive of the battle, whom he marries the following day. On their wedding night, the new bride murders the king and locks his only daughter, Snow White, in a tower, establishing herself as the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Obsessed with youth and beauty, Ravenna sucks the life out of the kingdom’s young women as she begins to age.
Years pass, and Snow White escapes into the woods. The queen, powerless in the dark forest, sends a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to retrieve her. The huntsman quickly locates Snow White but turns against Ravenna when her brother (Sam Spruell) lets it slip that the queen intends to break their deal. After learning her true identity, the huntsman swears to protect Snow White on her quest to overthrow the queen’s reign. What follows is a dangerous journey full of dwarves, enchanted forests and unknown dangers.
The film’s clear weak point is its absolute disaster of a storyline. The screenplay is a collaborative effort between three writers, and it’s quite obvious that each had a very different idea about where the story should go. The result is a weak plot, bad pacing and a jumble of supporting characters that appear sporadically throughout the piece.
Kristen Stewart’s performance doesn’t do the film any favors, though she is barely given any lines. For a movie that is supposed to portray Snow White as a strong female protagonist, Stewart opts for “weak” and “pretty” instead, lacking conviction in her more powerful moments. She’s just not believable as a woman who convinces an army to go to battle in her name. On a positive note, her accent and medieval getup help her come into her own and not be overpowered by the shadow of her “Twilight” character.
Charlize Theron’s performance is appropriately dramatic, though she is noticeably absent from much of the middle of the film.
While there’s nothing inherently unique about Chris Hemsworth’s huntsman, his character is likeable, and he does a very good job of being gruff and ruggedly handsome.
The appearance of the dwarves is one of the film’s major highlights. Featuring an ensemble of strong British actors that includes Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins and Toby Jones, the dwarves bring some much-needed life and humor to the film.
Given the film’s potential, it’s a shame that acting and plot weaknesses take away from its overall effect. One of the biggest missed opportunities is the lack of exploration of the relationship between Snow White and the huntsman — it is the title of the movie, after all. While it is understandable that the filmmakers are trying not to go the sappy route, the film doesn’t even acknowledge one of its major deviations from more classic versions of the story.
In this version, Snow White awakens after being kissed not by the prince (Sam Claflin) but by the huntsman. Yet there is no mention of Snow’s feelings toward the huntsman, and there is barely any closure on their relationship.
While plot is the film’s weakness, the production design is clearly its highlight. Production designer Dominic Watkins creates a visually stimulating yet dark universe, including a breathtaking enchanted forest and warriors crafted from shards of glass.
The portrayal of Queen Ravenna’s mirror is particularly interesting, as it comes alive as a mysterious figure shrouded in liquid gold. The style of the film is extremely reminiscent of Peter Jackson’s “Lord of the Rings” trilogy and even contains hints of “The Chronicles of Narnia” series.
Messy plot aside, “Snow White and the Huntsman” is worth the trip if you’re into medieval action and adventure movies. It’s also an interesting comparison to the many reincarnations of the Snow White story that have become so popular lately. Though her attempt as a strong female protagonist is appreciated, Snow White is sure to remain a Disney princess in the hearts of many.