With Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron. Written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini. Directed by Rupert Sanders. Rated PG-13 (for scenes of violence and action, and brief sensuality). 127 minutes.
After the commercial and artistic failure of “Mirror Mirror” a couple of months ago, here’s a different take on the same story, with innocent young princess, wicked old queen, handsome hero, and, oh yeah, those pesky dwarfs, all intact.
Thank goodness SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN is a better film. But let’s not go crazy. It’s not going to be popping up on any Top 10 lists. In fact, it’s got problems. Two of them are a couple of its stars.
Snow White, orphaned and made captive by her evil stepmom queen in a swift flurry of storytelling at the start of the movie, is played by Kristen Stewart, who perfected her pout in the “Twilight” movies and blandly continues it here. Though Chris Hemsworth (you know, that Thor guy) may not yet show a lot of thespian range, he sure acts circles around Stewart in presenting his Huntsman as an enjoyably drunken, self-centered lout of a widower, who knows how to use an axe.
The plot, for the uninitiated, has Snow escaping from her prison, and the Queen (Charlize Theron) – upon realizing that she can have immortality if she gets her hands on Snow’s heart – sending the nameless Huntsman to kill her, with false promises of bringing back his dead wife if he does.
Theron gets to do some juicy overacting, first with an icy stare, then with bulging, teary eyes, and finally with one hell of a shriek. She also gives the film a hefty dose of darkness – she stays young by sucking the life force out of other people; she might be “involved” with her brother Finn (Sam Spruell). But her nasty antics are balanced by the comic relief of the dwarfs played, in what nitpickers are going to call political incorrectness, by regular-sized actors, in fact some of Britain’s cream of the crop: Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan among them.
The switch to the classic fairy tale here is that the Huntsman is a sort of reluctant hero, who decides to teach Snow how to fend for herself by showing her the basics of knife fighting. But wait, is he maybe starting to fall for her? No, that can’t be. There’s some other guy –William, Snow’s childhood pal who, after years apart, now comes back into her life.
Oh, no! Is Kristen Stewart in the midst of another vampire versus werewolf love triangle? Not to worry. You see, the script hints at a “Twilight” kind of scenario, then quickly forgets all about it.
But we do get a visit to the somewhat creepy Dark Forest and to the silly Sanctuary, where teeny fairies ride around on cute bunnies. On the plus side there are people realistically covered in mud and grime (even Snow has dirty fingernails), and some terrific costume and set design to accompany excellent aging and makeup effects.
It all leads up to a big battle in which sweet Snow White morphs into fearless Snow of Arc, when what the film really needs is less Snow and more Huntsman.•••