With not much else to do this weekend, I went without much expectation to see Snow White and the Huntsman. Over the decades, the story of Snow White has been interpreted and re-interpreted countless times, but could this new Snow White from first time director Rupert Sanders bring anything new to the table? Actually… yes. Snow White and the Huntsman, while not the best movie you’ll ever see, is surprisingly fun, creepy and worth the price of admission.
Unless you’ve been living under a rock your entire life, you’re already familiar with the story of Snow White, probably through Disney’s 1937 animated feature film. There’s an evil queen who wants to be the fairest in the land, but Snow White is prettier, so she locks Snow White away, Snow White escapes, meets some dwarves, is poisoned (or choked to death) by a magical apple, a huntsman is sent to find her and bring back her heart.
So from its Grimm fairy tale origins and before, it’s dark and twisted story, but in most people’s minds, it’s full of sweet singing birds, charming princes and silly little dwarves. That’s apparently what several parents thought when they took their small children to see Snow White and the Huntsman, in the same theater as I, only to drag the young ones out screaming and crying because the movie was too scary. So it definitely had that going for it.
In this version, the story is pretty much the same. The Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), comes to power because she’s been made eternally beautiful and youthful by some sort of evil spell. After murdering her king on her wedding night, she becomes the sole ruler of her kingdom. But her power is because of her beauty, and in order to maintain it, she must suck the life and beauty out of fair maidens, including one played by Lily Cole. She establishes her court, brings in her magic, advice-giving mirror and asks it if there is anyone fairer in the land. “Yes”, the creepy gold liquid mirror answers. “Snow White.”
So she captures Snow White (Kristen Stewart), the daughter of the fallen king and locks her away in a prison tower. She could kill her, but she decides to save her for her last burst of beauty-eating goodness. The Queen has no king, but she rules alongside her brother-slash-lover (at least the lover part is heavily implied). Her brother (Sam Spruell), is a pale, creepy-as-fuck guy, who carries out the Queen’s sadistic orders with relish. When the brother is sent to fetch Snow White so that the Queen can drain her life, Snow White manages to escape from the tower, into the Dark Forest, where she barely survives, if it weren’t for the help of the titular Huntsman (Chris Hemswoth), who has been sent by the Queen to retrieve the girl.
And the rest is all about Snow White and the Huntsman evading the Queen and her nightmarish shadow army, they meet a band of dwarves, Snow White meets up with her childhood love, William (Sam Claflin) and returns to her kingdom to reclaim the throne.
Like I said, I wasn’t expecting much. In the past several years, Hollywood has been chock full of movies that look great in the trailers, but are all pricey CGI special effects and no real substance. And I was pretty much expecting Snow White to be the same. While it would be all too easy to completely destroy, disassemble and shit all over the film, it would take away from a movie that’s both dark as hell and whimsical, one that can have singing birds and dark pagan symbolism side by side without any sense of irony.
Some of the dialogue is cheesy, much of the movie is predictable, Kristen Stewart does herself a disservice if she says more than a few lines at a time, and why is there a white horse just magically waiting for her when she escapes prison? Because it’s a fucking fairy tale, that’s why. And in fairy tales, shit just conveniently happens like that.
Speaking of Kristen Stewart, I noticed that the few negative user reviews on IMDB were all around people just not liking her, and I guess I can get that. She gets a lot of shit for having a limited range of emotions like a female Keanu Reeve, but like in Twilight, it works in this movie. Snow White has lived her entire life as a prisoner in a tower in her own kingdom and has barely seen sunlight or other people, so it would be expected that she would be a little fucked up and not smile a lot. And while Stewart doesn’t branch out much from Twilight, her style works well for the character for the most part. While some may point out that in terms of her eyes and hair and cheekbones, she isn’t Cosmo cover prettier than Charlize Theron, I think the movie makes it pretty clear that this Snow White’s beauty comes from within, not because she’s got perfect Hollywood lips and eyes.
As far as the rest of the cast, Chris Hemsworth was great and growly and manly and all that. Charlize Theron was really damn good as the Queen, though like some people immediately had a problem with Kristen Stewart, I immediately sort of cringed at the idea of Charlize Theron, something that was completely the fault of that god-awful Aeon Flux movie from years ago. But she was great, and creepy as fuck, whether she was eating teenage girls or eating bird hearts like bon bons. But my favorite bit of casting, and perhaps one of the things that really made the movie for me, was the casting of the dwarves.
When the dwarves appeared, it took me, and probably most people, a while to squint to make sure that was really the likes of Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins and Tobey Jones on midget bodies. Yes ma’am. We’re not exactly in the golden age of midget casting anymore— Billy Barty is dead, Warwick Davis doesn’t do a whole lot of films anymore and Peter Dinklage doesn’t do anything where he has to dress too “midgety”. That leaves Verne Troyner, Wee Man and Tony Cox as the few big name little people stars. Fortunately, we have modern digital head-swap technology to broaden one’s casting horizons, while still hiring small actors for the bodies. So yes, the band of dwarves in this version of Snow White was played (at least from the neck up) by the likes of Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins, Tobey Jones, etc. And it was perfect and seamless and hilarious.
And segueing into that, the effects were really impressive, blending a nice mix of creepy and charming. The action sequences were well done, with lots of 3D-friendly action and sword swinging without it ever feeling like you’ve seen that exact scene before.
Overall, Snow White was worth the trip to the theater, even if perhaps, you’re not really a fan of Kristen Stewart. But if you are a fan of fantasy, fairy tales and ass-kicking females, this is definitely one to watch with a big bucket of popcorn. Leave your over-analytical brain at the door, though, because while Snow White is a lot of fun, once you start trying to pick it apart, you just might destroy everything that’s fun about the movie. Keep in mind that it’s a fairy tale first, which means it’s more full of symbolism, convenience and simplicity. It’s no Lord of the Rings, it’s no Game of Thrones, it’s just a good time in ye olde medieval Europe.