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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Review: Snow White and the Huntsman"

Non Spoiler Review:
One film that has garnered a lot of early hype from some pretty snazzy trailers is Snow White and the Huntsman. Charlize Theron has gotten plenty of screentime this spring, due in equal measures to a multitude of clips and trailers from this, as well as Prometheus. Her portrayal of the evil queen figured prominently in the movie's marketing, a bit unusual given it's about Snow White. 

Snow White and the Huntsman is a surprisingly epic and dark take on the classic fairytale. Young Snow White's place is usurped by the arrival of evil Ravenna who takes advantage of the king's despair over the loss of his wife and quickly kills him and takes over the realm. She imprisons Snow White in a tower for years and years (in which she doesn't look worse for the wear at all) until she learns that it's Snow's very heart that will secure her immortality. A timely escape takes Snow White into the dark forest, requiring Ravenna to enlist the aid of a huntsman to track her down.

Snow White and the Huntsman is directed by Rupert Sanders. It, of course, stars the stunning Charlize Theron (Prometheus, Young Adult) who seriously devotes herself to the role without a hint of irony. Chris Hemsworth (Thor) is the huntsman, and Snow White is played by the ever lazy Kristen Stewart (Twilight). The cast is further rounded out by some great co-stars, including Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane and Toby Jones.

The unique aspect of this interpretation is that everyone gets a backstory—the queen, the huntsman, even the dwarfs. The movie can't be faulted at all for dropping character in favor of action. In fact, I found myself quite sympathetic to Ravenna by the end (though that's in part due to my lack of appreciation for Stewart in general). 

I would say the movie felt a tad long, but in hindsight, how often do we get such an epic and indulgently dark take on a fairy tale? I was surprised at the directions it was charting as the story progressed with the portrayal of Snow White as this sort of messianic queen (a fairy tale Joan of Arc) to rescue the land from the darkness. But it all worked. I don't know how classic this film will become, but it was certainly a feast for the eyes. The costumes (especially Ravenna's) were astounding, while a healthy dose of world building went into the sets and the backstory.

Kristen Stewart didn't ruin the film with her laxidasical and uninspired Snow White, though she's still quite stunning (however Charlize is the fairest, hands down). That is all I shall say about her. Chris Hemsworth is always likeable even with an accent that grew a bit annoying by the end of two hours. I appreciated the relationship that developed between the two in contrast to the customary handsome prince, who is also in there too.

I was most pleased at how this take on the story avoided common clich├ęs. Is Snow White really meant to wed the prince? How can anyone not find a bit of sympathy for Ravenna given her backstory? The notion of a warrior princess, too, breaks convention.

There are the usual critiques that come with a fantasy film. Ravenna's magic levels are always in question, given she can apparently recoup her abilities and youth by sucking dry the life force of any nearby girl. Snow White seems to go on an odyssey for days through both the dark and relatively happy forests, while only a few hours away from the castle when necessary. But there's nothing story crippling here (unless one considers Ravenna should probably have killed Snow White the moment she took over the kingdom). An easy fix. Sadly, no villain has secured me as their advisor (I'm available).

The movie will appeal to hardcore fans of fantasy and not for anyone who might be looking for some more lighthearted stuff (that's not to say there aren't fairies and birds and rabbits frollicking about at one point). It might stretch on too long for most, but for me I was pretty engaged with the portrayals of Ravenna, the huntsman, even the dwarves, together with the rich visuals. In most ways it lived up to the hype of the trailer, and even surpassed it with some surprises. I'll catch it on Blu-ray again so I can better appreciate the eye candy and Theron's entertaining performance.

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