Sometimes eye candy goes a long way, and with this new reimagining of the Snow White fairy tale the visuals carried me through a lack of spark in some of the characters. First time feature director Rupert Sanders falls a little short in pulling engaging performances from his main lead and a few of the secondary players, but he none the less shows great promise as a visual storyteller with shades of Guillermo Del Toro, Tarsem, and Peter Jackson. The film overall has elements that work, and some that fall a little short.
The script for this feature seems to have gone through more than a couple of passes by such writers as John Lee Hancock (The Rookie, The Blind Side), Evan Daugherty, and Hossein Amini (Drive), which would explain not only some great ideas but unfortunately also explains how the story at times seems a little disjointed and some of the characters a little weak. The film begins with a short and well edited back story. We learn of how the death of Snow White’s mother lead to her father giving in to the wrong woman.Ravennais her name, and she is played by Charlize Theron in what is the best performance in the film. Early on we come to understand that Ravenna suffered great loss at the hands of men, and she is wise to the fact that they are easily swayed by beauty. As much as she resents the fact that physical beauty and youth hold too much influence on men, she uses all her wicked powers to ensure her beauty and youth are always maintained. One way she stays young and beautiful is to suck out the life force from young girls.
After Ravenna kills Snow White’s father and the entire kingdom is shrouded in darkness and cold, she has Snow White imprisoned in a tower for many years. When Snow White matures into a young lady,Ravenna’s creepy mirror informs her that if she eats Snow White’s heart, she will no longer have to consume the life from young women to maintain her beauty. With the help of a couple of starlings, Snow White manages to escape and hide in The Dark Forest. Since Ravenna needs Snow White’s beating heart, she must find a way to bring her from The Dark Forest alive. Snow White’s first moments in the forest are some of the most visually stunning in the movie. This is a creepy place with moving branches, quicksand, and toxic pollen that comes from the ugly growth. UltimatelyRavennatricks the Huntsman, well played by Chris Hemsworth to rescue Snow White, but when he finds her things get a little complicated.
What this film teaches us is that no matter how great visually a movie is or how engaging the script is on paper, a film isn’t likely to achieve greatness if the performances aren’t all first rate. To their credit, Theron and Hemsworth are terrific. Time and time again, Theron has shown that her physical beauty is only a part of what she has to offer. Along with a certain amount of joy she displays in playing this menacing queen, she also seems to have a strong desire to flesh out Ravenna’s humanity. Even if we don’t get it from Stewart, Theron seems keen on the notion that both Snow White and The Queen have a bond that lies beneath the surface of this fable. Hemsworth really shines as well as the bitter yet honorable Huntsman. He uses a Scottish accent in this role, and at times I was reminded of a young Sean Connery. I find myself eager to see him in a non fantasy adventure role. There are several other performers in the film that sprout up here and there.
The Dwarves are a line up of some of England’s best and most recognizable character actors including Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsen, and Ray Winstone. These Dwarves are more a kin to those seen in Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits than those seen in the Disney classic. They’re rugged, disagreeable, and savvy, but ultimately humane. As charming as they are, they don’t put the film over the top. For me the biggest anchor in the film is Kristen Stewart. Even though she is one of the biggest young actresses working today, I am really only familiar with her work as Jodie Foster’s troubled daughter in Panic Room. She was only a teen then, but I thought I saw the makings of a great performer. In this film however, she doesn’t have the enthusiasm or presence that would have helped the sometimes lifeless script. Sam Claflin as Prince William also seems wasted here, and the love triangle in the story never seems to go anywhere.
Aside from some quibbles I have here and there I don’t regret seeing the film, and some of the special effects, like the Bridge Troll, a stunning forest elk, and other various creatures, really held my attention. I fear however that being that this film is sandwiched between The Avengers, which had all performances matching the visuals, and the promising Prometheus, could really hurt its chances for blockbuster status. All in all, it’s still a decent treat for summer viewing.