For the second time in just over a month, theatres have been host to an adaptation of the Snow White story in a big screen/big budget version of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. Following in the footsteps of Tarsem Singh’s more family oriented Mirror, Mirror comes a darker, meaner edition of the classic story courtesy of director Rupert Sanders in his feature film debut.
Snow White and the Huntsman is the variation title and stars Kirsten Stewart (Twilight) as the princess Snow White who is held captive in her dead father’s castle by her evil step-mother the Queen (Charlize Theron). Spending years as a prisoner in the North Tower, Snow White is one day able to escape and runs to the woods where she is tracked by the Queen’s brother and his henchmen ordered to return her to the castle so that her life can be sacrificed giving the Queen eternal youth.
It is in the dark woods that Snow White meets The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), a saddened widow with a penchant for booze and violence. The two bond an unlikely friendship and The Huntsman agrees to help bring Snow White back to her longtime friend William (Sam Clafin) who also heads to the forest in search for his lost love he thought dead.
During their quest, Snow White and the Huntsman meet seven ornery dwarfs (none named after the Disney diamond miners in the 1930’s animated classic) and together with the reunited William, they will amass an army and hatch a plan to dethrone the Queen.
Snow White and the Huntsman takes a more mature approach to the Snow White story than did Julia Roberts’ Mirror, Mirror. Snow White and the Huntsman is bleak, muddy and violent. Where Roberts’ played her Evil Queen as whimsical, Charlize Theron is all business – evil, merciless business as she murders her way to both the throne and to immortality.
Stewart does an admirable job in making us forget her whiny Bella Swan character of the Twilight franchise and although she does not come across as a Joan of Arc, she does a capable job of making us believe that she can hold her own and motivate where need be in various called for situations.
Hemsworth looks very much like Thor having run himself through the mud for a month, but his character really falls into the background once the seven dwarves are introduced. The dwarves are played by well known British actors including Bob Hopkins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost and Eddie Marsan.
The real scene stealer is Theron who is at times terrifying in her use of black magic in search of the eternal beauty she so craves. Theron gets lost in relishing the role and when the movie focuses away from her dastardly presence, the movie falters. Mercifully, Snow White and the Huntsman has enough Theron, action and above average special effects to keep audiences interested in a familiar tale with an ending never in doubt.
But the cursed apple that sets Snow White into a deep sleep only broken by the kiss of her true love comes late in the film - a film that is already too long 127 minute runtime. This meaningless moment towards the conclusion ends up feeling more like an homage speed bump rather than a necessary plot point.
It results in an uneven effort, that is still better than most summer fare, but fails to live up to the promotional hype. If only Theron wasn’t so mischievously good and above all others sharing screen time, maybe audiences would care more for seeing good triumph over evil.