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Snow White and the Huntsman: Imaginative visual effects, grand scope, dull story

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Gorgeous panoramic shots of a rugged England landscape. Epic scope that demands attention. Stunning visual effects that make you yearn for the days when Tim Burton actually made good movies. Yes, Snow White and the Huntsman will have your eyeballs drooling.

It’s a shame we have to get to that whole “story” part.Snow White photos courtesy of Universal

The second film this year to utilize the famous Brothers Grimm fairytale (the former was the silly Mirror Mirror), Huntsman proves to be a vast exercise of style over substance. The spectacle does carry it pretty far, though.

Snow White and the Huntsman adheres quite faithfully to the source material contrary to the fact that it has been dressed up to appear as the anti-fairytale. It is certainly darker in nature, though; the film has our little princess Snow White (Kristen Stewart) discover her father dead in bed with a knife wound within twenty minutes of the film’s opening.

The guilty party responsible for the horrid act is none other than Ravenna (Charlize Theron), a witch of sorts that posed as a prisoner when the King went to battle with an unknown enemy. Distraught over his wife’s recent death, the King immediately marries Ravenna only to find out on the wedding night that she’s hardly as innocent as she looks.

With the King dead, Ravenna quickly assumes role of the Queen and casts a spell of decay and darkness over the entire kingdom. As for poor Snow White, she is banished to the north tower, locked away as a prisoner for all her life. As Ravenna’s strength and reign intensify, the kingdom slips even further into almost irreversible chaos.

Enter several years later where the plot thickens. Snow White, still imprisoned, has grown into her teenage years while the Queen still reigns, sucking life from young women to retain her immortal beauty. However, one day while utilizing her infamous “magic” mirror, she is informed that Snow White can in fact undo all of her power, and that Ravenna will no longer remain the fairest in the land unless she kills Snow White and covets her heart.

Ordering her death immediately, Snow White manages a thrilling escape from her castle and flees into the dark forest where she attempts to get her bearings. Meanwhile, the queen orders a drunken huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track down and capture her. Of course, it doesn’t exactly play out as rehearsed, and soon both Snow White and the Huntsman have a new agenda against the Queen.


First time director Rupert Sanders certainly has an eye for visual splendor, so much so that the element alone (with the terrific score) literally carries the film and keeps it interesting. His effort to manifest a truly imaginative world is noteworthy and ambitious. Sadly, there is an ongoing battle with the story elements, which remain quite weak. The whole thing is just rather dull at points, with a pace the moves like a slug. The performances are interesting, but only Theron (Prometheus) as the Queen registers as above average. Even her portrayal feels a little off, perhaps due to the fact that the actress is so skilled that the underwritten part is almost beneath her. Still, her cold icy stature and chilling desperation for eternal youth certainly permeates the screen.Charlize Theron photo: Universal

In other areas, Hemsworth (Thor) actually comes across quite capable and charming as the huntsman and warrior. The actor certainly has the charisma and physical appeal to garner audience sympathy.

He probably should have handed some of that over to Kristen Stewart, who basically has the range of a vampire in terms of emotion. It’s truly hard to take Stewart seriously as an actress, and this movie wont help matters, as she has limited dialogue throughout. When various characters start deeming her “the chosen one” of sorts, it just doesn’t fit at all. The part has clearly been miscast.

Snow White and the Huntsman culminates in another gorgeous looking, but thrilless, battle in the dark castle where Snow White takes on Queen Ravenna for control of the kingdom. The ending is pretty flat and anticlimactic, and surely such a nasty and scene chewing performance from Theron deserves a much better send off.

In the end, Huntsman is more successful than the dreary Alice in Wonderland remake that was released in 2010, and it’s not in 3-D, which is always a godsend. The visuals carry this fairy tale, as well as Theron’s performance, but in the end Snow White and the Huntsman misses the mark; it’s a decent film that could have been a great with a tighter pace and more thrilling execution.

If this movie were a dwarf, it would be Sleepy for sure.

Contact Jim Teti at jteti@philly2philly.com

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Photo credit: Universal