Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Snow White and the Huntsman, one of at least three 2012 films based on the German fairy tale, is a monotonous take on the classic story. Directed by Rupert Sanders, this picture is flavourless, gray, unentertaining, and purposeless. Despite a decent cast and some impressive effects, this is no fairy tale vision worth remembering.

The idea of creating a darker Snow White is nothing new, with other retellings of fairy tales and literary works getting similar treatments. Disney’s recent Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton, comes to mind.

Kristen Stewart is Snow White via Bella Swan. White is the princess of Tabor and her mother (Liberty Ross) has died. Her father (Noah Huntley) winds up marrying again, this time to the beautiful Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Unfortunately, Ravenna wants to take over his kingdom. She accomplishes this in relatively short order and locks poor Snow White away in a tower.

White eventually escapes. Seeking her heart, Ravenna hires a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to go after her in the Dark Forest. He agrees at first, under the notion that Ravenna will help him see his dead wife again, but decides against turning over White after he learns the truth. On the run, White and the huntsman come across a band of dwarves and work to take Tabor back from the wicked Ravella. There’s also something about an apple…

Snow White and the Huntsman isn’t all bad. There are some good special effects and the set design can be quite stimulating, from the boundless halls of the castle to the margins of the Dark Forest. The creature designs are pretty uneven though, with some striking examples in the fairy sanctuary offset by some rather uninspiring villains.

Sanders’ film deserves credit for trying to take the darker road, keeping things close to the original chilling intentions of the fairy tale. Things are miserable, even when they shouldn’t be, and the intrinsic lack of energy casts gloom over the movie’s extensive runtime. Dark stories need not drag along like elephants stuck in mud.

Stewart is an interesting choice as Snow White. For reasons having little to do with aesthetics, it’s hard to imagine her as a vision of radiance that the whole realm would fight for. When she slips into a rather tenuous accent and tries to rally the troops leading into the climax, it’s unconvincing. Stewart seems to confuse breathing and staring for “acting” and Snow White is a rickety, insipid, arid drag.

Only Theron excels. She is hammy and over-the-top, seemingly the only member of the cast having any fun. In illuminating Ravenna’s obsessive vanity, she parades a character whose impulses are ironically pure. She doesn’t suffer fools and she’s not above the odd vicious rage when it comes to getting what she’s after.

In the end, Snow White and the Huntsman is just another drab update of a story better told in other circumstances. There’s no magic and no life. The film is pale, crusty and boring. It takes itself far too seriously, with the only pieces of interest coming in the form of some effects, Theron’s villain and formulating a drinking game for every time Stewart’s monotone slips out of gear.

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