You guys remember the last time a director touched the Snow White fairytale in 2001? Yeah, the made-for-TV one with Kristin Kreuk. I’m sure some of you (much like myself) thought that it simply would not work. For the most part, we were all right back then. But that film did prove something very interesting for directors and producers – ‘Snow White’ is maybe the most interesting fairy tale we’ve ever read.
It was probably with that in mind that director, Rupert Sanders, gave it another try with ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’. The film clearly tells the story of the young Snow White (Kristen Stewart), princess of Tabor, who is imprisoned by her stepmother, the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), in fear that Snow would bring an end to her rule. Snow White escapes her prison when Ravenna sends for her to be killed, and Ravenna hires a widowed huntsman named Eric (Chris Hemsworth) to find her.
The script sets us up when they explain everything from Snow White’s birth to the fall of the kingdom of Tabor. And then, it takes off. The plot races off, and leaves the audience (and even the characters) to catch up after the fact. From the very beginning you can tell that the focus is not truly the characters, but the action of the story and the vividness of the setting. Snow White, the huntsman, the dwarves…none of them are given enough focus for us to discover their inner motivations, emotional scars or personal victories. And then by the end, everyone’s expected to be motivated and emotional and victorious.
And that’s probably the most heart-breaking part. Because the acting in the film is not bad. There’s a Kristen Stewart that has grown a great deal as an actress and has thoroughly thought out her character. There’s also a Chris Hemsworth that was handed a very interesting character that viewers will wish they saw more of. But the script just doesn’t give them the time they deserve. Stewart’s Snow White is never truly set up to be the ‘beloved Savior of the kingdom’, nor do we ever get a closer look at the huntsman’s previous relationship and the emotion behind his behavior.
The don’t even bring any closure to the characters they brought together. By the end of the film, there’s no real conclusion to the emotional connections they made with Snow White and her captor-turned-savior Eric, nor her childhood friend and valiant rebel Willian (Sam Claflin).
However, the cup runneth over where the antagonist Ravenna is concerned. She is portrayed vividly and intensely. A great deal of mystery and fantasy is written into the character, and Charlize Theron is allowed to be as intense and loud and emotive as she desires. And she is. She screams down the place and lets the tears roll down in a few places, eats the hearts of birds and turns the things she touches to dust. It starts off feeling a bit overbearing but never losing the audience’s trust as the character she says she is.
Another part of the script is that is tends to have its own issues. Characters do some seemingly small things literally out of the blue, that don’t add to their character or advance the story in any intelligent way. You won’t notice it at first, because it all feels intense and looks cool…but after some of it might leave you asking what the hell happened.
And since we’re on the topic of what looks cool, the entire movie wins in that department. They play it safe with the idea of the ‘kingdom’ represented in the film, giving a very old imperial British feel, but it doesn’t take anything away from the mystery added to it. There are so many powerful and intriguing scenes in such attractive locales in this mythical land that your jaw can’t help but drop looking at it all. The fairy tale cliches of dark forests and enchanted plains inhabited by fairies might seem like crap every other time they’re used, but not here. Not when they’re this beautiful.
It can be said that director Sanders allotted a little too much to the cinematography and didn’t focus enough on the actual writing and direction of the film, but this is longer than his usual work. Much longer. He’s done fantastic work as an advertising and music video director, but this is his only credited feature film. And his first try is a fantastic one.
‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ is an interesting story that is told too fast, not giving characters the development they need and robbing the audience a chance to take in a breathtaking setting. The cinematography still hits every mark, and a moderately attention-grabbing soundtrack packs a punch in some special places. It’s still a very strong adaptation of the Snow White fairy tale, and one that you’d enjoy to watch if you were into the story as a child. 3.5/5 stars.