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Among the summer blockbusters that boast superheroes, spies, and presidential vampire hunters, ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ (2012) boldly takes a step forward into the fray. The film, directed by Rupert Sanders, takes an action-oriented approach to the classic fairytale and boasts jaw-dropping beautiful effects, standout performances from Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth, and a fresh view of one of the most famous princess stories of all time. However, while a good movie, ‘Snow White’ fails to live up to its full potential due to writing errors in both plot and characterization.
The basic story is that Snow White is the daughter of two beloved rulers. Not long after having Snow White, the Queen falls ill and dies, leaving the King heartbroken. A dark army rises against the kingdom and shortly after defeating them, the King finds an enchantingly beautiful woman named Ravenna (Charlize Theron). He weds her immediately and Ravenna reveals that she is actually a powerful sorceress who beds kings and murders them by sucking out their vitality to take their kingdoms. She lets her dark army into the castle and they take over the kingdom, locking Snow White (Kristen Stewart) in a tower for over a decade.
Ravenna asks her magic mirror who is the fairest of them all and it tells her that Snow White is destined to surpass her. If she consumes Snow White’s heart, she will become immortal. Ravenna sends her brother, Finn (Sam Spuell) to bring Snow White to her, but his lust for Snow White allows her to injure him and escape the castle. Snow White runs into the dark forest and so the Queen orders her brother to bring her someone who has traveled through it before. They find a huntsman named Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and make a bargain with him. If he brings Snow White to the Queen, the Queen will resurrect his wife, whose death still haunts the huntsman. He reluctantly agrees and travels into the forest to find Snow White.
He quickly finds her and demands that Finn tells the Queen to hold up her end of the bargain, but Finn reveals that even the Queen cannot bring someone back from the dead so their deal is broken. Eric helps Snow White escape and they travel deeper into the forest. Snow White asks Eric to take her to Duke Hammond (Vincent Regan) and his son William (Sam Claflin), her childhood friend, so she can raise an army to fight the Queen. Eric does not know she is Snow White so he is still unwilling to help her. He leads her to a village where he thinks she’ll be safe, but Finn and his men find them and burn down the village. Seeing the destruction and learning she is the princess, the huntsman agrees to help her and they continue onward.
The highlights of the film are plentiful. Chris Hemsworth shows that he has the capacity to be a tough, belligerent hero while still having a soft side that would make any woman’s heart melt. He does most of the heavy lifting in the acting department, which works well since Kristen Stewart is still young and has not come into her own style yet.
Likewise, Charlize Theron knocks it out of the park as the evil Queen. Not only is she a heartless monster of epic proportions, but also as we learn Ravenna’s background, we can’t help but feel a certain sense of pity for her. She had been enchanted by her mother as a last ditch effort to save her and honestly believes that both love and men are evil, and that eternal beauty is the only thing in the world worth having. She is a terrifying, yet lovely, visage throughout the film and ironically breathes life into her role with her soul-sucking powers.
The effects for ‘Snow White’ are staggeringly wonderful. The environments are well rendered in every scene—from the disturbing dark forest to the gorgeous fairies’ dwelling. Special mention goes to the effects team who worked on the seven dwarves, who are played by familiar faces like Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins, and Eddie Marsan to name a few.
However, ‘Snow White’ has a lot of problems; foremost, the writing. There are so many rookie mistakes that keep this film from being as great as it could have been. Mainly, there are three flaws: Snow White’s lack of characterization, the undeveloped love triangle between Snow White, the Huntsman, and William, and the blatant refusal to answer anything about this magical fairy tale land.
Snow White is known for her beauty and kindness, but Kristen Stewart’s portrayal is not entirely successful because Stewart hardly ever smiles through the course of the movie. It is clear that she is a kind soul, but she spends so much of the film running away from danger and struggling with the destruction around her that it is hard to connect with her. The busy plot does not allow her time to reveal her personality for more than a few fleeting seconds and so it is difficult to root for her in the final battle scenes.
The film also does not utilize William, Snow White’s childhood friend, in any effective manner. We are led to believe that he is the love interest, but then halfway through the film, it is revealed that the huntsman also has feelings for Snow White. The biggest turn of events is that William’s kiss does not awaken Snow White when she eats the poison apple, but the huntsman’s kiss does wake her. Then the film completely abandons the subplot and does not explain if Snow White knew it was Eric who woke her and not William. This is a gigantic ripoff of a subplot because the movie simply ends without addressing the rather significant issue.
Overall, the film is enjoyable, but has too many things holding it back from being fantastic. I recommend it to lovers of fairy-tales, but go in with moderate expectations.
Image Courtesy of Snow White and the Huntsman