Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is fairest of them all?
Answer: not Snow White and the Huntsman.
As the second take on Snow White to hit screens this year, Snow White and the Huntsman is being positioned as a darker, action-packed take on the fairy-tale princess. That much is certainly true. The film is more reminiscent in style to films like the Lord of the Rings series than a standard “princess” film. It’s not only dark, but downright grimy in many portions. Stylistically, it’s a breathtaking film.
The film diverges from previous versions of the character by casting Snow White – played here by Twilight star Kristen Stewart – as a mature young woman who focuses more on righting the wrongs committed against her kingdom than on romance, which is rather refreshing. The other titular character of the film, the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), ends up carrying more of the romantic arc of the film, along with Prince William (Sam Claflin).
Of course, any version of Snow White has to include the Evil Queen, and in this version we have Queen Ravenna, played rather marvelously by Charlize Theron. There’s a semblance of a backstory provided for Ravenna, with mentions of men who mistreated her in the past. There’s also a brother with whom she shares a borderline incestuous relationship. Ew.
The casting is surprisingly on-point. While noted for wooden acting in the Twilight films, Stewart actually manages to show signs of life in this role. Her chemistry with Hemsworth, who’s coming off of two remarkable films already this year, is definitely stronger than with her Twlight costars. As for Theron, she brings her A-game to the role, making every action and word feel vital.
In spite of all of this, though, there’s a lack of spark in this film. Of course, the film is intentionally “dark,” but at times it feels downright dull. Too much time is spent on Snow White’s journey through the Dark Forest, and the closing battle scene feels like it was shot to be an epic scene without anything actually epic about it. More disastrously, the potentially intriguing storylines that are hinted at in the beginning of the film more or less disappear during the movie.
Finally, in spite of a more lavish and cinematic scope and (at least some) more impressive casting choices, the film feels less enjoyable than Mirror Mirror, this year’s other take on Snow White. It’s disappointing, because there’s a lot of wasted potential with this film. When the film gets elements right, though, it shines.