The title “Snow White and the Huntsman” immediately suggests unoriginality, something quite common among the summer movie spectrum. So imagine my surprise when this particular movie didn’t, at first, play out exactly the way I thought it would—only to eventually double-back in its tracks and play out with nothing but predictability.
It’s an even trade off of inspiration and convention, though slightly more favorable towards the less inspired. This is a movie that, when it breaks away from its fairy tale origins and becomes something new, it’s actually rather good (if not, in the least, enjoyable).
But when “Snow White and the Huntsman” stays rooted in the clichés of its source material—afraid to go certain routes with this fairy tale, but not others—it’s a dud of foreseeable intentions. It gets to the point where even true love’s first kiss would have trouble bringing this movie back to life.
So in short, what we have here is a mixed bag. It starts off strong as the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, in a silly accent) narrates the background info of how crazy Ravenna (who’s always surrounded by ravens, get it?) infiltrated her way into the Queen’s throne, killed her king and locked his daughter, Snow White, away in a dungeon for years.
It is immediately apparent that there’s some piercing darkness to this “Snow White” tale, hardly a sweet bedtime story or fluffy fairy tale Walt Disney crafted in the classic 1937 animated film. Charlize Theron, in an alarmingly nutty performance as the twisted Queen sorceress, gives a vicious display of scenery chewing that oddly enough works with this film. She overacts tremendously, but in a role that seems to require such an odd combination of evil and eccentricity.
And because the Queen has severe self-image issues, she is threatened when her magic mirror alerts her that Snow White is “fairest of them all” (why the Queen kept her alive all these years is an unanswered question probably best left unexplored). The titular heroine (Kristen Stewart, looking a bit more alive here than in the “Twilight” films) escapes, leaving her to fend off alone in the Dark Forest while the Queen sends Hemsworth’s Huntsman to find her.
I like the way the Dark Forest is designed with sinister surrealism—at one point causing Kristen Stewart to experience horrifically dark hallucinations, and always highlighting the best elements of its menacing atmosphere. I don’t quite like the way another male character is thrown into the mix—Snow White’s childhood friend William, played by Sam Claflin—because apparently every movie these days needs to have a pointless love triangle.
‘Snow White’ continues almost like clockwork in this pattern. I liked that, I didn’t like that, I am not sure how I feel about that—the final comment best applying to the movie’s take on the seven dwarves, which has famous faces like Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, and Toby Jones scurrying around as little examples of nifty special effects work.
It’s all hit or miss—enjoyable when it strikes the target and almost exasperating once its ammo gets misdirected. I will admit, it’s nice to see a summer movie focus a little less on the razzle-dazzle, and a bit more on actually telling a story. But that’s still no excuse to be dull.
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.