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Monday
Jun112012

#1. Snow White and the Huntsman -  Review

An amalgamation of Grimm, Disney, and even Shakespeare for good measure, Snow White and the Huntsman utilizes many of the familiar elements of the classic tale, but strays far enough away from previous attempts to keep you guessing. Yes there is a rose and an apple, the enchanted mirror and even seven dirty little men (well, technically eight but who is counting?), but director Rupert Sanders implements these expected tools in different, while not entirely clever, ways.

Charlize Theron (Monster, Prometheous) plays the deceptive Ravenna, the fairest one of them all for sure, who uses her beauty to entrap and kill a recently widowed king in an effort to pilfer his power. Having made a deal with the devil so to speak, Ravenna controls many magical powers, including immortality, but only by sustaining the title of being the most beautiful woman in the land, judged of course by her shape-shifting mirror. She maintains her natural good looks by literally sucking the essence out of the young women in her kingdom, stealing their youth and leaving them as morbid wrinkled husks of their former selves.

The king’s daughter, princess Snow White (Kristen Stewart of The Twilight Saga) has of course been left to rot in the castle’s north tower, until the Queen learns the princess has come of age and stolen her title as the fairest of them all, leaving Ravenna no other choice but to extract the girl’s heart to finally guarantee her own immortality.  Snow White ably escapes from the queen’s evil clutches, teams up with the Huntsman tasked with her capture, and sets forth on a fantastical adventure. At least on paper that is how it would seem.

Produced by the same team that backed Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland in 2010, their most recent fairy tale update attempts to portray all of the dark violence many remember from Grimm’s original tale, but with the big budget spectacle that brought them such success with Alice. Forfeiting all of the whimsy and fancifulness and color of Wonderland for an ominous land of grime and despair, the sheer weight of Snow White’s bleak murkiness and melancholy found throughout the kingdom eventually overpower the audiences’ ability to simply enjoy themselves. There is no fun to be had here.

Even the eventual introduction of the dwarves, all but guaranteeing even the slightest sense of levity, is quickly stomped out by the death of the eighth dwarf soon after meeting him. Played by some of today’s most endearing British actors such as Ian McShane (Deadwood, Hot Rod), Toby Jones (The Mist), Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), Ray Winstone (The Departed), and Bob Hoskins (Hook), director Sanders questionably gives the men nothing to do. They must have been going by amount of screen time when the producers decided to drop “and the Seven Dwarves” from the title. It is a testament to the actors’ skill they were able to inject any manner of life into their intriguing little clan.

Theron’s Ravenna, although horrifying at times to be sure, is as disappointingly one-sided as the mirror she so often gazes into. Her beauty is bewitching, and her quest to preserve that allure is an interesting one, but in the end screenwriters Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock fail to create a villain that will stand the test of time similar to Disney’s own iconic evil Queen (Lucille La Verne), whose raspy voice and looming presence I can immediately conjure. The same sadly goes for Stewart and Hemsworth’s eponymous personifications. Stewart’s Snow White is as dead-eyed and open-mouthed as her Bella Cullen, once again finding herself in the middle of two beefy men and leaving me to wonder what it is they see in her. Hemsworth fares a little better, his charms come off more natural and not nearly as forced as poor Stewart.

About as much fun as a twirling a sparkler on a shadowy summer evening, Snow White and the Huntsman’s shallow experience is somewhat admissible if only for its sheen. A film that is as breathtaking as it is boring, it unfortunately never amounts to more than a stunning proof of bloated budget. Coming out in the belly of blockbuster season, this is just another in a long line of films this summer that prove once again that spectacle can never compensate for good old fashion storytelling.

 

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