The idea of taking a fairytale (and Disney movie) everyone knows the story of and reinventing it with a different twist was never going to be an easy job, but Snow White and The Huntsman seemed to be a promising concept.
I don’t think it’s a spoiler to say that this film takes the well-known fairytale and says, “What if the Huntsman had gone with Snow White, rather than just pretending he had killed her and having nothing more to do with the story?” and adds a sprinkling of the post-Lord of the Rings style of fantasy cinema into the mix too, and conceptually at least, it runs with both these ideas in impressive style.
We are treated to a prologue giving us some background on the Queen (which actually borrows from the original Germanic folk tale) and Snow White’s younger life in a castle that seems to combine the fantasy majesty of Disney with a toned down version of the grittiness of Game of Thrones.
With most of the dialogue either being slightly modified clichés we’ve already heard in films from Lord of the Rings to Star Wars or so blatantly used as exposition it makes for an immense lack of character all round.
This, I think, goes someway to explaining why Charlize Theron clearly gives up on trying to act and simply hams it up to such a degree she is at times hilarious, but, despite her actions rarely genuinely threatening.
Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth also clearly struggle through, though it is unclear whether Stewart’s performance is so uneven due to her skills or the script or a mixture of the two.
That may sound unnecessarily harsh (and this is the first thing I’ve seen her in so, elsewhere, she may be a fine actress) here though her every gesture seems painfully wooden and even at the end, what may have been an enigmatic smile on the face of some, simply looks like a sneer which leaves the film on a very unsettled note.
Hemsworth meanwhile goes for a sub-Thor type of performance with an accent heading in the direction of Russell Crowe’s round Britain approach in Robin Hood. Though he is strong in the action scenes (as he is in Thor and The Avengers), he also seems to be playing a character Heath Ledger might have played a few years ago, like a dirtier Knight’s Tale, and at times looks something like a beefier Ledger too.
The action scenes are well done, particularly during the main bulk of the film as Snow and the Huntsman make their way through a Lord of the Rings style walk, sorry… quest, from one location for a scrap to another. However, while they look good and are well choreographed, they become very repetitive, as this quest portion goes on a couple of stops too many and shortening the film would certainly not have been a bad move (at 90 minutes rather than 127 I think it would have been a much more successful romp).
Throughout the film magic is used to an extensive level by the Queen but it is in this that the film begins to lose its sense of internal logic as it is unclear whether the magic is the Queen’s head at some points or actually there at others and; while it clearly has an effect on others around her, a couple of scenes call this into question leading to an unnecessary confusion.
So, in the end, Snow White and The Huntsman is extremely flawed on several technical levels, but its overarching concept and the well done action scenes (and some of the dwarves moments), do make for a reasonably entertaining movie, just one that goes on a bit too long and clearly isn’t sure whether it wants to be a kid’s movie, a Lord of the Rings style quest or Game of Thrones-lite.