Fairy tales enchant us as kids and teach us lessons to be remembered later on in life. “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” — the first full-length animated feature by Disney — was no different. Ever since it was first announced that they would be making a darker re-imagining of Snow White, I was on board. I was OK with the majority of the casting choices and even willing to give Kristen Stewart a chance as our heroine.
My enthusiasm was amplified when I attended Comic-Con last year and got to see the cast and director discussing the film — which hadn’t even started shooting at that point. Director Rupert Sanders, who had never made a film before, is known for directing beautiful commercials. So was the choice to go with someone who is great with visuals over another who might have more experience the right choice for Universal Pictures? Read on and find out.
Everyone knows the tale of Snow White and her evil stepmother the Queen, or do they? Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is born to a loving mother (Liberty Ross) and father, King Magnus (Noah Huntley), but when Snow White’s mother falls ill and dies the king is thrown into a depression. A dark and mysterious army appears during this time and is defeated by the king’s men. In the process, they discover a prisoner, Ravenna (Charlize Theron), whose beauty enchants the King. They are married the next day and on their wedding night, she shows he true colors and kills the king and has her army take over the kingdom. The king’s friend, Duke Hammond (Vincent Regan), and his son, Prince William (Sam Claflin), manage to escape the takeover, but they leave behind a young Snow White.
Years pass and Snow White is kept imprisoned in a tower. Meanwhile, Ravenna’s dark magic included a magic mirror informing her that Snow White has become the “fairest in the land.” Snow White escapes the Queen’s clutches and enters the nearby dark forest in which few return from visiting. And to make matters even more precarious, Ravenna summons a huntsman named Eric who has traversed the Dark Forest and returned alive to hunt Snow White down.
“Snow White and the Huntsman” succeeds on many points but also falls short on a few others. The special effects and esthetics in the film are inventive, amazing and really help drive the storyline, motivations of certain characters and set the tone for the world in which these characters live. I loved everything to do with Ravenna, from her transformations to the use of her powers. I was completely impressed with a scene in which she transforms into a flock of crows to escape and then materializes after a defeat and struggles to pull herself back together. The creatures such as the troll and a few others were very well done and are completely believable as living and breathing beings in this land.
Other positives include the overall look of the film, including the settings, use of light and dark tones, the amazing costumes and the appearance of the land after Ravenna and her dark magic have taken hold of it. This is where Sanders shines the most; everything you see on screen is perfectly crafted to tell the story and it does. From the way the film was shot and edited, to the sets and costumes, all were a visual treat and added to the mystery and appeal to the darker retelling of this classic tale. Think Snow White meets “The Lord of the Rings.”
The casting in the movie is really good, starting with Kristen Stewart, who plays a quiet but strong individual. Much like her “Twilight” character, she gets stuck in the middle of two men teaming up to protect her. Chris Hemsworth is equally as good and every time I see him in a new role, I become an even bigger fan. The standout in every way, though, was Charlize Theron, who not only is ruthless and incredible in the film, she offers a diverse range of emotions and motivations for her character to use. She made it her own and was completely captivation and multi-dimensional.
The rest of the cast did an OK job but weren’t used much. Sam Claflin, who plays Prince William, is underutilized and has nearly no screen time with Snow White and therefore I didn’t feel their connection as much as I did with Stewart and Hemsworth. The dwarfs were really a waste. When you have talented actors like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Johnny Harris, Tobey Jones, Nick Frost, Brian Gleeson and Ray Winstone, they shouldn’t be used in just a few measly scenes. I was wishing that they would bring some humor to the film, but sadly they did not.
Now, onto the biggest problem with the film: the script . The film seems vague and sloppy at times – it dragged in the middle and was just too long overall. The movie, which is nearly 2 hours and 10 minutes, starts and ends well, it’s just somewhere in between that the pacing becomes a problem and there are many unnecessary, superfluous scenes that could have been reserved for the DVD. I would say that the pacing along with a skeletal script led to this movie from being really good in my opinion to just too slow and not worthy of a “must see” recommendation from me.
Although it has quite a few faults, “Snow White and the Huntsman” is a beautiful and magical film but pacing will lead some to doze off in the middle. I want the film to do well opening weekend, but this film feels like a movie you should either see when the crowds have died out and you can enjoy it without being crowded and distracted, or see at home once it has been released on DVD, so you can pause it whenever you need to, fast forward or get up and get a snack.
“Snow White and the Huntsman” is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of action and violence, and brief sexuality and arrives in theaters everywhere tomorrow.
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