Snow White and the Huntsman
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Toby Jones, Ian McShane
Rated: PG-13, for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality
Runtime: 2 hours, 7 minutes
Bottom line: Solid, epic, grown-up retelling of the tale
Fairy tales are the new vampires. As the vampire fad fades, a different (notice I didn’t say “new”) cultural trend is taking over: fairy tales made for more mature audiences.
“Game of Thrones,” “Grimm” and “Once Upon A Time” are among the hottest shows on television, so Hollywood hopes to cash in on the trend with dozens of reworked fairy tales.
“Snow White and the Huntsman” comes this week as the second Snow White movie this year. This Snow White, however, is fairer than the tepid “Mirror Mirror” and should fare better at the box office.
“Huntsman” is also intended for more mature audiences, very much earning its PG-13 rating thanks to numerous battle scenes, personal killings and sexual innuendo.
The stakes are life and death from the outset. Snow White’s mother dies when Snow is a girl. Her father, the king, is still mourning when a mysterious, beautiful woman named Ravenna (Charlize Theron) tricks him into making her his queen.
The king and Ravenna are about to consummate the marriage on their wedding night, when Ravenna straddles him and stabs him to death with a dagger. She then rolls onto her side of the bed, chest heaving in post-coital fashion.
Again, parents, this movie was not made for your young children.
Just as in the fairy tale, Ravenna is obsessed with being the fairest of the land — later we learn there is more to it than mere vanity — so she locks Snow White in a tower and begins sucking the youth out of the local girls.
She rules with the help of her brother Finn (Sam Spruell), with whom she has an unnaturally intimate relationship.
Snow (Kristen Stewart), of course, grows up to be fairest in the land, so the queen must rip out her heart. Snow escapes just in time.
Ravenna coerces a Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) into tracking down the fugitive, but when he learns that the queen plans to kill Snow and that he has been double-crossed, he decides to help her.
A large portion of the movie has Snow and the Huntsman on the run and meeting some superbly cast dwarves, but eventually Snow will lead a rebellion against the queen to restore peace in the land.
The combination of fairy tale storytelling and serious dramatic style proves awkward and uneven. The filmmakers aim for a heavy tone similar to “Game of Thrones,” but the screening audience chuckled at a few moments that were intended to be serious.
For instance, the King discovers Ravenna, filthy and cowering in fear in a wagon, after a battle and decides to marry her — the very next day?
When Snow escapes from Ravenna’s castle she makes it to a nearby beach, where a gleaming white horse just happens to be waiting for her. The movie doesn’t provide any motivation for the horse being there. It’s just there, magically.
The problem is how the filmmakers (mis)handle the shifting tone. It begins like a Shakespearean costume drama with no fantasy elements. So when a horse seems to just drop out of nowhere, it’s laughable.
Later, we see Snow’s magical qualities, how every living thing adores and protects her. The fantasy elements make more sense as the movie goes, but they are occasionally silly early on.
The entire cast is excellent, though, especially Theron and those surprising dwarves.
Stewart must have loved this role. After playing passive for the entire Twilight series, she gets to take matters into her own hands. She rides horses, dons armor and wields a sword — quite a change from Bella’s incessant fretting over Edward and Jacob.
Prepare yourselves for the fairy tale trend to continue. With multiple productions of Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, Dorothy and Oz, Hansel and Gretel, Sleeping Beauty and several others set to hit theatres over the next three years, Snow White is about to have a lot more company.
Jeff Marker teaches film and literature at Gainesville State College. His reviews appear weekly in Get Out and on gainesvilletimes.com/getout.