A retelling of the oft-told fairy tale, the wicked stepmother is intent on destroying Snow White, only to find that her agent of evil will become her own downfall.
Visually impressive from the start, Snow White and the Huntsman features the action hero machismo (and unusual accent) of Chris Hemsworth, the graceful charm of Sam Claflin and the insipid presence of Kristen Stewart. Thankfully, Charlize Theron is on hand to out act Stewart, whilst the myriad of fine actors fill the role of the dwarves.
The duplicitous step mother imprisons Snow White after seizing the kingdom. Whilst the Queen may have power and beauty (being the strong female type), all is not well as it quickly becomes clear that the plucky Snow White is quite a threat (and pretty, too). There’s only one choice for the Queen – kill off Snow White, get her heart and be done with the inconvenience of a beautiful challenger to her throne.
Okay, so the plot of Snow White is absolute nonsense, but it’s still a compelling story that is well realised in this film. There’s something distinctly Stardust influenced in its presentation, without the skill of Matthew Vaughn or Jane Goldman to keep the story going – it’s not that it runs out steam, it just doesn’t flow evenly and occasionally tries to be dark and meaningful, but feels flat and then overly melodramatic.
The acting is as uneven as the pacing – Stewart is adequate as Snow White, assuming they wanted the character to be bland, whilst Hemsworth continues to be the action hero he looks like. Theron is, by far, the most interesting of the characters, part Lamia (from Stardust) and Cersei Lannister (from Game of Thrones), though not as vicious or brutal (or adult) as either. The transformation of the characters – White from victim to saviour, The Huntsman from reluctant villain to hero – and the fairy tale fantasy of the setting, do draw the viewer in, as does the familiarity of the story and an urge to see how the filmmakers handle key moments.
There’s ample use of CGI (the shard soldiers are great as is the Wicked Stepmother’s transformation), rolling landscapes of breathless beauty and fantastic costumes, all collaborating to set the scene perfectly. Not enough is made of the CGI mirror and some of the set pieces do feel a bit pointless – the large creature that Snow White encounters comes to nought, the impact of Snow White’s “death” isn’t really that impactful (probably because it’s too similar to Stewart’s performance throughout). Rupert Sanders, however, does a decent enough job.
The dwarves, however, are some of Britain’s finest character actors – Toby Jones, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone and Eddie Marsan amongst them. The quality of their performances, along with Sam Claflin and Charlize Theron, shines through.
I will give this retched world the queen it deserves.
Visually stunning, mostly capably acted and epic in feel, Snow White and the Huntsman is far from a failure. It takes a while to get going, but once Snow White is free of the castle, things pick up – we get derring do, high adventure, fairy tale romance and villainy, though it will leave you wanting to watch Stardust, Labyrinth and many other films that is follows.