Snow White And The Huntsman
- Director:Rupert Sanders
- Cast:Chris Hemsworth, Toby Jones, Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron
- Release Date:June 21, 2012
- Running time:127 minutes
- Film Worth:$18.00
- FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth
Wisely treating its source material with respect but tweaking it enough to feel fresh, this is rich, entertaining and surprisingly thought-provoking storytelling.
The yield from Hollywood's current crop of fairy tale adaptations has been a largely thin and unsatisfying one, with films such as Mirror Mirror, Red Riding Hood and Beastly failing to make much of an impact with either critics or audiences. The best of this recent once-upon-a-time bunch, however, is only arriving now, with Snow White & The Huntsman not just a superior big screen fairy tale, but a superior film in general. Taking the classic, oft-adapted (most famously, of course, in animated form by Walt Disney in 1937) fairy tale by The Brothers Grimm, director, Rupert Sanders (making an assured debut after working in the world of television commercials and video clips) proves yet again that when a great, mythic story is treated sensibly and with some degree of respect, its rock-sold narrative foundations will provide a steady platform on which to build something strong and enjoyable. Indeed, it is this adherence to the essential tale - despite obvious embellishments and alterations - that gives Snow White & The Huntsman its fantastical kick. Everything that you know and love about the famed fairy tale is here and accounted for, but with enough of a twist to make it feel fresh and contemporary. And yes, even the dwarves are good...
After an extended and surprisingly gothic prologue, we meet the virtuous Snow White (Kristen Stewart), who has been imprisoned by the viciously vain Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who has usurped the young princess' rightful place on her murdered father's throne. Eventually escaping into the nearby dark woods, Snow White is pursued by the only man who knows how to survive amongst its tangled horrors: the unnamed Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), a grieving widower and drunkard adventurer employed by Queen Ravenna. Instead of killing Snow White, however, he takes her under his wing, and - with the help of a gang of ex-miner dwarves - joins her in bringing the fight back to Queen Ravenna, who wants to crush the young princess for a number of reasons, one of the principal being her envy-inspiring youth and beauty.
As evidenced by the synopsis, all the plot points are here, including, as well, the poison apple, the dashing prince (Sam Claflin), and the magical mirror on the wall. Sanders, however, has put them all through his own visual and narrative blender, which he has obviously constructed from elements of The Lord Of The Rings and the current TV cause celebre, Game Of Thrones. That, however, is no criticism. They're more than worthy points of influence, and Sanders employs them with imagination and intelligence. His film looks and sounds grand and foreboding, thanks to the dark-hued, painterly images of gifted Australian cinematographer, Greig Fraser, and the evocative music of veteran composer, James Newton Howard. The best thing about Snow White & The Huntsman, however, is the seriousness with which it treats its themes and narrative. There's no winking at the audience here, and no self-reflexive, post-modern attitudinising either. Within the original story's framework, Sanders (working from a nicely layered and strongly characterised script by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini) finds the relevant themes, and punches them up to fit a contemporary take on the tale. Snicker if you will, but Snow White & The Huntsman is packed with food for thought: our current world's obsession with staying young and beautiful; the habit of rich and powerful men to throw women away when they start to age; the cruelty that unchecked power can inspire; the rarely acknowledged female victims of war; and the constant under appreciation of those worthy members of society who have been, for whatever reason, insensitively marginalised. Sanders responds to these themes with subtlety and intelligence, but they are ultimately what give Snow White & The Huntsman its quiet power.
Also contributing to the epic tableaux is the impressive cast. Though continually, predictably and unfairly harried for her alleged inadequacies as an actress (largely born of the backlash against The Twilight Saga, tediously led by too-cool-for-school film critics and posturing web "commentators"), Kristen Stewart makes for an engaging Snow White, at first reticent, but later inspiring and strong. Star-on-the-rise, Chris Hemsworth, is even more impressive as the burly Huntsman, a likeable tough guy with a crate-load of emotional baggage. But the film really belongs, predictably, to the villains. Charlize Theron stays on just the right side of theatricality as the vicious, wild eyed Queen Ravenna, portraying her as nothing short of a self-obsessed psychopath. It's a great read on the character, and Theron is kinkily supported by Sam Spruell as her creepy, sadistic brother, Finn. These two, however, are certainly challenged by the stellar group of top-flight character actors (Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris) and the progeny of one (Brian - son of Brendan - Gleeson), who play the tale's heroic dwarves. Tough, raucous but melancholic, they provide the film's humour, and also a lot of its heart.
Rich, imaginatively staged and constantly involving, Snow White & The Huntsman is one fairy tale that gets a happy cinematic ending.