Wedged in between The Avengers and the upcoming releases of The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spiderman, and battling it out with a simultaneous release of another Snow White remake, it would have been easy to overlook Rupert Sander’s new, very dark take on the classic fairy tale. So I suppose first things’ first. Regardless of everything that follows, this wipes the floor with the frankly ludicrous Mirror Mirror, and wins best Disney remake of the year.
The film, from the very outset, is visually stunning. It’s a film shot with care and love, and every single frame sings with detail. The colour palette is achingly vibrant, the pristine white of snow against the blood red of the rose in the opening shot a standard that the rest of the movie follows. It’s there in everything; the contrast between the wickedly macabre Dark Forest with its rotten trees and cinder-black mud; and the gloriously lush Sanctuary, the home of the dwarves, bristling with emerald green and open sky. The costumes follow suit; we see Charlize Theron’s evil queen Ravenna burn through and array of deliciously evil dresses, culminating in a fantastic raven cloak. The arcing helicopter shots are present as well; one particular aerial view of dwarves trekking across the ridge of a mountain so reminiscent of Lord Of The Rings that even Peter Jackson must have smiled. The fights are slick, and in contrast with a lot of other movies, don’t go on for longer than they need to. They are short, surprisingly brutal and oddly satisfying.
Sadly though, for all of its visual glory, The Huntsman just lacks a bit of substance. The storyline is as you would expect; evil queen destroys kingdom and locks up beautiful young girl, who then escapes, ready to win back what is rightfully hers. But in all of this, there seems to be a lack of real drive. Kristen Stewart, playing Snow White, actually does a commendable job, but there really isn’t that much for her to do. Before you know it, she’s found the dwarves and is suddenly the head of an army ready to overthrow a queen. There is no room for her to do anything than be pushed along towards the inevitable finale. This is even more infuriating in the case of Charlize Theron.
Theron delivers the best performance of the film, switching from being acerbically cold to viciously insane in the matter of seconds, and the scenes where you see her start to fray at the edges, those one or two clever shots where you actually fear she might be genuinely crazy are the highlights to watch out for. There’s a glimpse of a backstory, a broken past that might have twisted her into what she has become but it is left frustratingly brief; a compelling narrative left unfinished.
Chris Hemsworth provides the charm, while sounding unnervingly like Gerard Butler as he struts round with a Scottish Burr. As the Huntsman, he is exactly what he needs to be, believably ruthless in the fights and providing a good foil for the innocent Snow White. He shares some decent chemistry with Kristen Stewart, but this is also once again left unexplored and a little empty.
Snow White and The Huntsman is by no means a bad film. It’s fairly enjoyable and fantastically shot, and there are far worse ways to spend roughly two hours, but it could have done with just a little more fleshing out to drive home the emotional impact.