Snow White and the Huntsman (** 1/2)

Yes, she's a mouth-breather.

This year’s second Snow White flick offers a grimly epic, rather than goofy, take on the fairy tale source material. Twilight‘s Kristen Stewart stars as the titular heroine, Chris Hemsworth (The Avengers, Thor) as her ax-wielding counterpart. An evil, youth-stealing queen (Charlize Theron) has usurped the throne of Snow White’s father and imprisoned her for, let’s say, ten years. She will become an immortal tyrant if Snow and her crew can’t put the screws to the she-devil and restore peace and freedom and the like to her kingdom.

It is a maxim of storytelling that the kind of story you tell matters less than how you go about telling it. That Snow White has a thin premise does not automatically condemn it, but its lackluster script and and half-committed acting do. It trades on mythological overtones about destiny and purity like they’re calling cards for something we should care about, yet seems to understand nothing about how to invest a film with mythological gravitas. The result is something that’s cheaply fanciful, a boring joke at the expense of true fascination with the mysterious and unknown.

Unfortunately, we never get to see him turn into the Nightwalker.

The film’s saving grace is the art direction. Everything looks really good. And we’re even given a relief from the incessantly oppressive mud and blackness of the decrepit kingdom during an interlude in a place where fairies and powerful spirits seem at home. This sequence has some of the most fun creature and environmental design of any fantasy film I can think of; it’s literally like a children’s picture book come to life. The whimsical weirdness of this section provides a visceral sense of wonderful otherness lacking in so many fantasy films, including some of the very best. It looks like the movie I dreamed of when Guillermo del Toro was attached to direct The Hobbit, a dream which has since been swallowed by grim reality–much like the swallowing up of the true fairy tale section by the rest of this relentlessly drab film.

It’s not unreasonable to think of the movie as a kind of anti-Twilight for Stewart: the passive damsel metamorphed into the warrior princess. But she unfortunately remains more Bella, more classically “Snow White” than she is Xena, Buffy or Mononoke. Even when she’s mustering the troops for war the girl has no spark, no presence–she’s a blank face when the movie demands a fierce one. Emma Watson could upstage her with a single glare. If Jennifer Lawrence carried The Hunger Games virtually in spite of itself, Snow White and the Huntsman ekes by as an inoffensive fantasy diversion in spite of Kristen Stewart.

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2 thoughts on “Snow White and the Huntsman (** 1/2)

  1. Brittany says:

    I couldn’t agree more. The greatest thing this movie had to offer was some beautiful scenes and good special effects…a quick fantasy motion picture fix. I did love the melting mirror…sadly more than any other character.

    The acting was subpar. There was no reason to really cheer for the protagonists aside from the fact that the antagonist was so blatantly evil. I didn’t see any real chemistry between Hemsworth’s and Stewart’s characters. The injection of William seemed to be no more than an attempt to add some sort of tension to the Snowhite/Huntsman relationship…he in no way propelled the story forward. There didn’t seem to be a reason for the audience to invest any hope or disapproval in the fate of these characters.

    There was a lot of potential with this film and story that wasn’t realized.

    But let’s be honest. They were doomed from the beginning when they attempted to suggest Kristen Stewart was prettier than Charlize Theron…I mean, c’mon. Seriously!?!

    And at least for once, Kristen Stewart’s pale complexion came in handy.

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