Title: Snow White and the Huntsman
Directed By: Rupert Sanders
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sam Claflin, Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Vincent Regan, Noah Huntley
While I was determined to judge Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror impartially, from day one, I always had an inkling of which of the two I’d prefer. However, it turns out, even with the advantage of a little bit of bias, Rupert Sanders still couldn’t trump Tarsem Singh.
In a darker twist on the beloved fairy tale, Snow White’s (Kristen Stewart) widowed father, King Magnus (Noah Huntley), marries the beautiful Ravenna (Charlize Theron) only to find out that she’s hell bent on gaining power, even if it means taking her new husband’s life. After Ravenna murders Magnus, Snow White is banished to the dungeon. Ravenna spends her years feeding off the young and innocent to maintain her youth, but when Snow White comes of age, the only way for Ravenna to remain the fairest of all if for Snow White to die.
However, just before Ravenna can end her life, Snow White escapes and is chased into the dark forest. Desperate to have her back alive, Ravenna strikes a deal with a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down. Meanwhile, Snow White’s childhood friend William (Sam Claflin) is all grown up as well and upon hearing that she’s still alive, he vows to rescue her.
Sounds exciting right? Even with a number of impressive digital effects and wannabe epic battle sequences, one of Snow White and the Huntsman’s biggest faults is that it’s flat out boring. It’s nice to give dialogue room to breathe every now and then, but this movie is packed with dead air. And even when the chatter is flowing, all of the characters constantly mumble or whisper, rendering the conversations unintelligible or wholly unnatural.
But, even if you could hear the performances loud and clear, the story would still have little to offer. While the basics of the fairy tale are there, they don’t coalesce in the least. Snow White and the Huntsman is more serialized rather than a properly flowing feature film. Snow White basically jumps from location to location and almost never for a reason other than the fact that she’s being chased. And while that does work in some instances like with the dark forest, there comes a point when the heroine has to start making decisions and strive for her journey’s endpoint. Conversely, in this case, rather than keep Snow White’s desperation to reach Duke Hammond’s (Vincent Regan) castle in the forefront, her adventure feels more like a haphazard tour of mythical creatures.
On the bright side, at least some of those creatures are rather impressive looking. The whole non-dwarves playing dwarves thing works well although none deliver performances that suggest the visual trick was worth the effort. The troll is a particularly detailed inclusion, but not enough time was spent on its integration with the live-action material. While Snow White and the huntsman are both vibrant, the troll has a noticeably grayer hue to it. On the other hand, the effects department excels when it comes to Theron’s transformations. There might be one too many instances where Theron goes from young to old, turns into birds then mud and back again, but all the physical changes are seamless.
But sadly, the fact that this is Rupert Sanders’ first feature is quite evident. He knows what techniques make for a nice frame, but doesn’t really know how to use them and has the tendency to beat a certain image to death. There must be at least a dozen wide shots of characters, lined up, trekking across a gorgeous terrain. Still, at least those are all fairly pretty shots. Sanders doesn’t seem to know what to do with his more intimate moments. We get standard close-up or medium shots on characters taking part in a one-on-one conversation, but the design is never stimulating and says nothing about the moment other than, “I’m showing you this because I have to.” Visual woes creep into the editing department as well as there is absolutely no sensible shot progression in Snow White and the Huntsman. Rather than move from a medium shot into a closer one to highlight a scene’s climax, we’ll get some random wider shot that either completely destroys tension or emotion.
Equally distracting are the performances. Of the bunch, Hemsworth sold his role more so than anyone and it’s not just because his accent is natural. He was simply well cast and didn’t merely run around in his costume with an axe; the huntsman exhibited some true emotion. Stewart, on the other hand, can’t do very much, but look like she’s in pain. While it isn’t fair to constantly compare her work to The Twilight Saga, it’s nearly impossible to ignore the fact that her performance here feels like a Twilight transplant. As for Theron, she tries and it works to a point, but trying too hard results in melodrama.
Really, the only thing Snow White and the Huntsman has going for it are the effects and production design. However, when you don’t have an engaging story happening in that realm and, perhaps even worse, are lacking the camera coverage to do that environment justice, even that goes to waste.