Thursday, May 24, 2012

Everything Fans Were Hoping For, Snow White And The Huntsman Is A Surreal Fantasy Adventure!

The Good: Decent effects, Generally good acting
The Bad: Predictable plot, Light on character motivations, Editing
The Basics: Visually impressive, Snow White And The Huntsman gives Kristen Stewart a bona fide action role that beefs up her acting chops!

Right now, I feel bad for Kristen Stewart. Yes, as unlikely as it might seem, I feel bad for Kristen Stewart. Stewart, who skyrocketed to fame as the protagonist in Twilight and its sequels (reviewed here!), is facing the end of her first major franchise with the impending release of Breaking Dawn, Part 2. So, Stewart is doing what a savvy actress her age ought to be doing, which is to find the next big thing for herself. Snow White And The Huntsman was never going to be a franchise for Kristen Stewart, but it was a particularly shrewd way for the young actress to try to retain her Twilight audience. But, from the promos for Snow White And The Huntsman, one might think that Kristen Stewart’s role in the movie was incidental (the latest t.v. spots and trailers do not include any of her lines). Given how much Snow White And The Huntsman Stewart dominates, it’s almost enough to make one feel sorry for her the way she is not being highlighted in the ramp up to the film’s release.

Snow White And The Huntsman is enough to make cinephiles forget all about Mirror Mirror (reviewed here!) earlier this year. Bearing a far closer resemblance to Tim Burton’s Alice In Wonderland (reviewed here!) – without the Burton quirky sense of humor - Snow White And The Huntsman is a directoral triumph for Rupert Sanders. Snow White And The Huntsman might simply be the retelling and reworking of the classic fairy tale story, but Sanders and writers John Lee Hancock, Evan Daugherty, and Hossein Amini manage to make it feel surprisingly fresh without feeling cheap. Instead, Snow White And The Huntsman delivers a classic hero (or heroine) story with a sensibility likely to please anyone who loves fantasy films.

Ravenna is the evil Queen who dispatches the King as part of her quest to gain supreme power over the kingdom and over her own immortality. Insecure in her power, she uses dark magic to retain her youthful appearance by eliminating every beautiful young woman in the realm who could threaten her. But, she learns that Snow White is destined to overthrow her and has the power within her to usurp her position on the throne and break the magic that keeps her young. Unwilling to risk that, Ravenna’s creepy brother William captures the girl and prepares her for execution. Snow White escapes to the enchanted forest where she lays low.

And so, Ravenna employs the Huntsman to find and kill Snow White. It does not take long for the Huntsman to track Snow White down in the Dark Forest. Realizing the Queen has betrayed him, the Huntsman switches sides and leads Snow White to safety. With the help of Snow White’s dwarven companions, the Huntsman befriends and trains Snow White. Fighting for the soul of the kingdom, Snow White and her companions overcome magical beings and human adversaries to confront the Queen and retake the kingdom.

Snow White And The Huntsman is a big, special effects-driven film that manages to tell an intriguing story in a mature way. Unlike many other incarnations of the Snow White story, Snow White And The Huntsman is dark. Ravenna is appropriately tyrannical (if a little monolithic) and the story takes a decidedly action-adventure turn to make Snow White a compelling female protagonist. For all the complaints about both fairy tales and the Twilight Saga’s interpretation of female protagonists, in Snow White And The Huntsman Snow White is an empowered, powerful warrior. Snow White And The Huntsman is the story of Snow White becoming that woman. Sure, she could use the help of several men to get in the door, but when it comes down to it, she is the one who must stand against the evil queen.

And more than the special effects – which are magnificent and frequently trippy – it is the acting that sells the viewer on Snow White And The Huntsman. While the characters of Raveena and the Huntsman are pretty monolithic, Snow White And The Huntsman’s director, Rupert Sanders, utilizes his cast very well. Chris Hemsworth manages to play the Huntsman as a strong individual without simply retreading his interpretation of Thor. In fact, one of the few likable character aspects of Hemsworth’s Huntsman in Snow White And The Huntsman is that the character is cautious and smart. Moreover, Sanders does not capitalize on Hemworth’s looks. In Snow White And The Huntsman, Chris Hemsworth is sweaty and dirty and he looks like a guy who is used to being out in the woods. And Hemsworth pulls it off (even if he doesn’t keep to one distinct accent for his lines).

Charlize Theron, who is looking to have a pretty awesome two weeks whatwith Snow White And The Huntsman and Prometheus (reviewed here!)making their debuts back to back, does what she can with the somewhat monolithic character of Raveena. Like many fairy tales, Snow White And The Huntsman does not provide the viewer with a truly satisfying reason as to why the antagonist wants absolute power. Her insecurity is fairly well-documented, but Raveena’s passion to stay alive and beautiful is not terribly compelling. Theron does what she can with the role, though more often than not, she makes Raveena an icy despot, as opposed to a character with more depth or apparent cunning.

It truly is Kristen Stewart who steals the show from Snow White And The Huntsman. Despite the big special effects in the film, it is Stewart who manages to deliver a performance that proves her actually worthy of the role. Absent is the stumbling uncertainty of Bella Swan (though there are moments when Stewart has to play Snow White as confused or hurt). When Snow White is trained to be a leader, Stewart takes the role and works it. The idea of Kristen Stewart with authority or gravitas in a role will never be put in doubt again once audiences take in Snow White And The Huntsman! Stewart is able to level a steely glare that works and there is something about the way she sets her jaw that defines determination exceptionally well.

Unfortunately, upon the second viewing, one of the aspects of Snow White And The Huntsman that failed to wow me was the editing. The film possesses far too many rough cuts between scenes, which unfortunately undermines some of the wonderful special effects. The result is a series of abrupt transitions that pulls the viewer out of the film.

Ultimately, Snow White And The Huntsman is an engaging action adventure movie and it satisfies the adult/twentysomething desire to re-experience fairy tales in a more adult context. Not for young children, Snow White And The Huntsman is a visual treat that is a surprisingly direct, uncomplicated story that capitalizes well on the current fascination in pop culture with fairy tales.

For other films with Chris Hemsworth, please check out my reviews of:
The Avengers
The Cabin In The Woods
Star Trek


For other film reviews, be sure to check out my Movie Review Index Page for an organized listing of all the films I have reviewed!

© 2012 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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