Devastated by the loss of his wife, King Magnus (Noah Huntley, "Your Highness") is only roused to fight a mysterious phantom army and free their captive, Ravenna (Charlize Theron). He marries her the next day, but he's murdered in his wedding bed and his daughter is imprisoned in the North Tower. The sorceress Ravenna's power is tied to her beauty, and when she learns that the beating heart of her step daughter will ensure immortality, she sends for her. Ravenna's brother Finn (Sam Spruell,"Defiance," "sex & drugs & rock 'n roll") is overpowered and the girl escapes into the dark wood where she will be hunted on the Queen's order in "Snow White and the Huntsman."
Commercial director Rupert Sanders makes his feature debut with stunning visuals in service to little soul. This adaptation of the fairy tale (by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock ("The Blind Side") and Hossein Amini ("Drive")) stays true to the original Grimm Brothers' darkness and Charlize Theron deadens her eyes and summons pure evil, but Kristen Stewart, tasked with being 'life itself,' has to work pretty hard to muster any.
The screenwriters go back to basics, referencing "Snow White and Rose Red" at the onset with the flower and drops of blood in the snow which gives our heroine her name. Magnus's deep grief apparently just needs a pretty face to lift it and apparently befuddle the king as well as it is clear as day that Ravenna has laid a trap. Having taken over the king's kingdom, nature rebels and his former people are left with poverty and scorched earth. Ravenna's fey brother Finn acquires scores of pretty young women for his sister to suck the life from and discard. When Snow escapes, she evades capture by diving into a sewer, then jumping into the sea, where sea terns lead her to a white horse, but she's chased by the Queen's guard and driven into quicksand and the Dark Forest, a land of twisted trees, black beetles, bats and fungi spouting poison clouds.
Needing a guide, The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, "Thor"), another grief-stricken widower, is ordered by the Queen to retrieve Snow White, promising the return of his wife from the dead. The two bumble about in the swamp but when Snow saves The huntsman from a huge, treelike troll by simply standing up to it and not acting horrified at its appearance, he joins her side. They run into a bunch of dwarves that are comprised of a who's who of the British acting world (Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones and Nick Frost) and we marvel at those known faces on completely alien bodies. Then Snow wanders into what the dwarves call 'The Sanctuary,' where the fairies live and we get the Disney-on-acid version of the Dark Forest, all green grass, furry fairies, woodland creatures and, most delightful of all, cyclops mushrooms. Snow dances with the youngest dwarf, Gus (Brian Gleeson), but the Queen catches up and Snow accepts that infamous apple, fooled by Ravenna's disguise as her childhood friend, William (Sam Claflin, "United").
Although it is commendable that the filmmakers ditched the kiddie version of the tale to go back to is roots, they've crammed a bit too much into this and, in the end, it's hard to care about any of it. The most interesting character is Ravenna, perhaps based on Hungary's notorious Countess Elizabeth Báthory, said to have tortured and murdered as many as 650 young girls. Stewart, with her darkly shadowed, sleepy eyes, just doesn't project purity nor the charisma needed to be a 'leader of men' (the film's final act is a battle in which Snow becomes something like Joan of Arc). In fact, once she's on her sleeping bier, one keeps waiting for her eyelids to snap open revealing the vampire within. Chris Hemsworth's Woodsman, who we later learn lost his wife to the Queen herself, is big and bland and Claflin's William seems like a third wheel. The dwarves offer some interest, but are also peripheral to the main story line.
It is ironic that this is not the offering from Tarsem, the visual stylist who took the comedic route on the tale earlier with "Mirror, Mirror." What "Snow White and the Huntsman" excels at are art direction, costume, makeup and visual effects. It would be no surprise to see Oscar nominations for the film in these categories, all linked with avian imagery. Colleen Atwood's costumes for Theron could be museum pieces, although one is left to wonder why both Theron and Stewart sport dirt rimmed fingernails throughout. Stewart
"Snow White and the Huntsman" has had lots of money lavished upon it and it certainly is full of some pretty weighty eye candy - of the black licorice, Gothic sort. But we never really get the relationship promised by that title and once the villain is vanquished, it all just trails off like a puff of smoke.
Robin did not see this film.
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