Earlier in the year audiences were delivered Mirror Mirror, a different take on the classic Snow White fairytale that gave new meaning to the word cheesy, with a sickly sweet tone, embarrassing dialogue and Julia Roberts the worst she’s been in years.
Getting the short end of the stick by having to come out after that – and therefore being known as “the other Snow White movie” of this year – is Snow White and the Huntsman, an altogether darker and more serious take on the story but one that succeeds far better in being entertaining and respecting the original source material without following it slavishly.
Twilight’s Kristen Stewart plays the titular Snow White who, after the wicked Queen kills her father, is kept imprisoned in the castle while the Queen reigns. One day she manages to escape into the Dark Forest where she meets the Huntsman (played by Thor himself Chris Hemsworth) who, after being sent by the Queen to bring her back, decides to help her defeat the beauty hungry Queen.
Director Rupert Sanders tackles the tale with conviction, achieving a seriousness that ultimately allows it to be taken seriously by the audience. It’s dark without being brooding, something a lot of blockbusters post-The Dark Knight have failed to get right, and doesn’t feel depressing or like any sort of chore to sit through. The action, while a tad unremarkable, does its job and arrives at satisfying regularity to offset any times when the plot may grind to a halt to, for example, devote time to arguably superfluous flashbacks.
Stewart tackles the lead role with impressive gusto, showing that she can do more than mope around in the Twilight movies, something she’s already tried to get beyond with the likes of The Runaways and Adventureland. She’s provided with solid support from Hemsworth as the tough huntsman and Charlize Theron, clearly having a hell of a time chewing up the scenery as the wicked Queen Ravenna. A sense of more lighthearted fun is added by the dwarfs, played via CGI by an impressive collection of British thespians including Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost and Bob Hoskins. The special effects used to achieve their stature – as well as the magic world around them that includes everything from trolls to fairies – is impressive throughout even if it’s a little overused.
It’s certainly not without its flaws, with a sag in the narrative towards the end, some clunky story resolutions (one in particular involving one of the more famous parts of the fairytale) and perhaps a bit too much reliance on the CGI to get by. But for the most part Snow White and the Huntsman is an entertaining blockbuster that actually has some weight to back up the spectacle.