New Release: Snow White and the Huntsman
Last year, Hollywood started a new trend: the raping of our beloved childhood fairytales, with both Red Riding Hood and Beastly. It's taken these stories that our parents read to us at bedtime and twisted them almost beyond the point of recognition, for the mere purpose of getting the hard earned weekly allowances of the teen demographic to which these adaptations so clearly pander. Thankfully, Snow White and the Huntsman rises above the other entries in this trend, mostly for its far more reputable cast.
In this version, the evil queen, Ravenna (Charlize Theron), is Snow White's step-mother and keeps the girl locked up as a prisoner after murdering her father on their wedding night, something Ravenna has been doing in different kingdoms for many generations. Once Snow White (Kristen Stewart) "comes of age," Ravenna is no longer considered the most beautiful, and since her dark magic lies within her beauty, Snow White is a great threat. However, Snow White escapes her prison and into the Dark Forest, where the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is employed to track her down, but alas he does not have the conscience to hand her over to the evil queen. And by the end the two lead an army of rebels to destroy Ravenna's reign.
The film doesn't follow its source material closely enough to say "I know what's going to happen, so why am I watching this?" However, it does refrain from tearing Snow White's tale to shreds until it's no longer recognizable, unlike last year's predecessors. It clearly tries to play a more "girl power" angle by having Snow White lead the rebels into battle. Sadly, the film's star didn't quite capture the strength needed for the character. Stewart does a fine job as the "damsel in distress" for the first two-thirds, her eyes wide and scared, voice quite and shaky as she runs from the horrors of the forest and the queen. She has a few lines sprinkled throughout, all of which she delivers adequately. However, once she must give the big speech to rouse her followers into fighting back, her delivery simply isn't strong enough to make me believe anyone would want to trust her in such a life or death situation. I've seen Stewart play tough several times, but her natural vulnerability almost always resurfaces, and this was no different. Once the battle starts, she does fine, but it's the getting there that's rough.
The remaining cast does a good job. Theron is deliciously over the top, rightfully stealing every scene, which was evident from the promotional material. Hemsworth is more subdued than his recent Thor excursions and there was no doubt he could do the beefy hero thing well. Unfortunately, the "seven dwarfs" felt a bit wasted. The deviation into their storyline lent little drive forward in the plot of the film and when they perhaps should have been used as comical relief to diffuse the tension, the opportunity was missed or poorly executed, making me wonder why they were included at all, or at least as much as they were, other than for Muir (Bob Hoskins) to predict Snow White's true purpose in destroying Ravenna.
The film runs a bit longer than needed, bloated by minor subplots, which seems to be a common misstep when a protagonist is "on the run" for a majority of the film. It is a darkly beautiful film with loads of imagination that does take a generally happy fairytale down some rather melancholy alleys, but in the end it's still a fluffy, surface level fantasy that could easily be forgotten by the time the next "updated" fairytale comes along.