PLOT: Obsessed with being the fairest woman in the land, evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) learns her stepdaughter Snow White (Kristen Stewart) will soon surpass her in beauty, and seeks to achieve immortality by consuming the young girl's heart. Snow, realizing her days are numbered, escapes imprisonment -- having been held captive in a tower-cell since her father's murder at the hands of Ravenna -- and heads immediately for the dark forest to seek help from those still loyal to her.
Her power quickly fading, Ravenna enlists her vile brother Finn (Sam Spruell) and The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), the only man capable of braving the dark forest, to hunt down Snow. The Huntsman, quickly coming to quick realization the Queen's promise of resurrecting his dead wife is a lie, disobeys his orders, joins Snow's burgeoning rebellion and, along with eight dwarfs (Ray Winstone, Brian Glesson, Ian McShane, Eddie Izzard, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, and Stephen Graham) and a handsome prince (Sam Caflin) who has loved Snow since they were children, help her take back the throne.
REVIEW: With SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, newbie director Rupert Sanders and writer Evan Daugherty took what was a pretty lame idea (I can see the studio execs now, "Hey, let's make the Snow White version of Tim Burton's ALICE IN WONDERLAND with Thor and Bella!") and morphed it into a wicked cool blockbuster that plays not only to the most standard-issue moviegoers (ones simply looking a good time) but the teenyboppers (looking for the violence of THE HUNGER GAMES by way of the gushy romance of TWILIGHT) and hardcore geek/nerds (any movie that pays homage to GAME OF THRONES, THE LORD OF THE RINGS, THE DARK CRYSTAL, STAR WARS, THE NEVERENDING STORY, EXCALIBUR, LABYRINTH, and RETURN TO OZ without dropping into spoof territory is good in my book) as well.
I'm honestly shocked this movie turned out as f*cking awesome as it did. I knew the ad campaign Universal had been rolling out for nearly a year now was plenty impressive ...but something seemed off to me. Not visually because, well, there was absolutely no way this WASN'T going to completely rock your eyeballs out of their sockets.
Director Sanders, even though this is his first feature, is already an accomplished visualist whose commercial work is unparalleled. Every frame, every moment, every little detail here has been conceived and executed to perfection. Even the CG, usually dodgy in modern fantasy pics, is very well-executed.
Especially when it comes to the dwarfs. You'll note little people weren't employed but instead very-recognizable actors (almost broke out cheering when I noticed Nick Frost and Ian McShane amongst the ranks) who were digitally shrunk and make to look small through clever visual tricks. Very impressive stuff that, to be quite honest, makes what Peter Jackson did with the hobbits in the LORD OF THE RINGS pics look antiquated. Here's hoping Jackson didn't just rely on his RINGS bag of tricks for THE HOBBIT because the bar has been raised as far as what you can do film-wise with CG dwarfs.
Most will probably reference Michael Bay when discussing Sanders but that's not a fair comparison. Bay is all about quick cuts and hyper-kinetic editing. Everything has to be slick and glossy for a Bay film. Sanders is more about detail and giving everything a "lived in" look. He's not afraid to make his leads get dirty and crawl around in the muck. It's that quality, one I hope he continues to refine with future features, which makes me think Sanders is more akin to Ridley Scott. Feel free to acknowledge my comparison is on the money by comparing this to Scott's unfairly-maligned 1985 fantasy epic LEGEND.
No, to be blunt, Kristen Stewart was who seemed off. I'm a fan of hers, no doubt, but a studio putting multiple trailers that reduce the top-billed lead to a mute is cause for concern. I'm talking Keanu Reeves in BRAM STOKER'S DRACULA levels of concern.
Remember how Reeves was the hot star of that flick and yet he had no lines in any of the trailers or promo material? And do you remember when you finally saw the movie and realized the reason he'd been rendered silent in the adverts was because his performance was abysmal? Yeah. Totally got that vibe from what Universal was doing with Stewart here.
Thankfully, Stewart's performance is not awful. It's definitely NOT on same level as either Charlize Theron's or Chris Hemworth's and I can't say she's the first actress I would've went to had I been in charge of casting (I assume the version most of us immediately go to is the one from Walt Disney's animated classic SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS) but Stewart is good. Very good, actually. I'm not real sure why Uni decided to spook audiences by keeping her quiet for so long. Her accent was decent, her performance very good, and she definitely made the role her own.
Stewart even did well with the totally unnecessary "love triangle" the filmmakers opted to shoehorn in. I'm sure her adeptness with that material came from her TWILIGHT days but this isn't that. Stewart has genuine chemistry with both Hemsworth and Sam Caflin (who reminds me of THE NEW KIDS star Shannon Presby for some reason) and even though the romance stuff doesn't quite work ...they make it work.
I'm pretty sure that statement doesn't make a lick of sense so just know and accept there's a "love triangle" in SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN and it's a not a bad one. Script doesn't really do it justice but it works for what it is. I'm guessing sequels were in mind when this flick was conceived and future installments, if produced, will address some of the plot threads left dangling.
Charlize Theron. Gal is operating at ungodly levels of awesome here. Some might call her work campy, others might describe it as over-the-top, but I say she's f*cking brilliant. Not many actresses can, or would want to, deliver 110% while being made to eat the hearts of crows, suck out the souls of young maidens, throw "do me" looks to her on-screen brother, and basically devour every piece of scenery as if it was made of ham ...but Theron does just that.
Chris Hemsworth. Yeah, he's basically doing a variation of his THOR persona here but I didn't mind so much. Imagine Thor a little less glitzy (love his appearances in THOR and THE AVENGERS but the dude is always so CLEAN) and glam (maybe he's born with it, maybe it's Mjölnir) and more grim (The Huntman's wife is dead and he's willing to hunt down and possibly kill Snow White for the chance to resurrect her) and gritty (Hemsworth spends almost the entire film caked in grime).
Hemsworth is definitely ON here and makes the most out of every scene he's in. Only gripe I had was that there wasn't enough of the "Snow and The Huntsman are falling in loooove" scenes to warrant his excellent monologue towards the end. Scene works like gangbusters but it wasn't totally earned.
Sam Caflin. As I mentioned earlier, this guy reminds me of Shannon Presby. That really says it all to me but probably doesn't mean much to you. My comparison is simple: Caflin makes for a handsome hero but he's a little forgettable ...just like Presby.
He's also done no favors in his romantic moments with Stewart simply because, well, his love triangle features Chris Hemsworth as the third point and she's clearly going to end up with him. Why go with the guy who was barely even shown in the trailers (not kidding, I don't even recall seeing him in the teaser or the first theatrical one) when you can have THOR?
And who wouldn't choose Hemsworth over this guy? I'm as straight a f*cking arrow and I'd choose Hemsworth. Hell, I'd even choose the STAR TREK version of Hemsworth -- I'm talking the one who crashes the U.S.S. Kelvin into Nero's ship and DIES -- over Caflin.
That's right. I chose a corpse over Caflin. That's the power of Hemsworth, people. In a love triangle with him, a girl, and you ...you lose.
Other things to love about SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN: the badass dwarfs (I'd list all their cool little moments but that stuff if best left experienced rather than described), the obsidian shards that exist only to kill in the name of the Queen (Collider calls this creature "The Shatterbeast" so I'll go with that), Snow's presumably magic white horse (reminded me of Atrax from THE NEVERENDING STORY which reminded me I need to go somewhere and cry), Ravenna's ability to teleport via ravens/crows (the effect works way better in the final film than it did in the trailers), the magic mirror (which is, thanks to a brief moment most might not even notice if they're not paying attention, may or may not be a figment of Ravenna's imagination), Snow's silent ability to bring joy and love to that which is around her (the moment with the stag in the forest actually brought me goose-bumps), the vileness of Finn (as if his incest-y longing for his sister, near-rape of Snow, and Klaus Kinski in CRAWLSPACE-like appearance wasn’t bad enough, dude enters the "EVIL MOTHERF*CKER HALL OF FAME" with a last act taut delivered to The Huntsman), the village of women who've mutilated their faces so Ravenna will not want them (DAMN!), the on-screen violence (definitely the most violent PG-13 movie I've seen in a long time), and the final scene (shades of A NEW HOPE). So much to love here and, like I said, there's a little bit for everyone.
As far as gripes go, I think I've addressed them all above. Caflin is a little bland. Stewart's performance is good but not quite up to snuff when compared to Theron's and Hemworth's. The love triangle is a little half-baked. And, oh yeah, there's not enough stuff with the dwarfs. Takes nearly an hour for them to arrive on-screen and once they do you'll be wondering why they didn't show up earlier. They're that good.
Wrapping things up, SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN really impressed me. The visuals were spectacular, the vibe dark and dirty, the performances on the mark, and the story familiar but definitely different and unique. Think of this flick as the next AVENGERS-level crowd pleaser ...albeit one loaded to the hilt with graphic violence, blood, near-rape, dark imagery, incest, self-mutilation, revenge, necrophilia, pseudo-patricide, sex, gore.
Um ...yeah. Bad analogy. This ain't nothing like THE AVENGERS. Just take this flick on its own terms and you should have a blast with it. I don't see how any true fanboy or fangirl wouldn't.