REVIEW: 'Snow White and the Huntsman'
Friday, June 01, 2012
Snow White and the Huntsman, a dark and violent retelling of the classic fairy tale, just may be this summer's surprise hit. Featuring standout acting performances, imaginative plotlines and gorgeous cinematography, the movie is one of the few this summer thus far that will have you feeling like you got your money's worth at the theater (which no one is going to say about Dark Shadows or The Dictator).
Universal pictures and first-time director Rupert Sanders made a risky choice in casting Kristen Stewart to carry a summer tentpole action movie. Best known for her role as Bella Swan in the Twilight movies, Stewart comes with the baggage of that franchise. Could the star of the Twilight franchise make the crossover to the heroine in a Lord of the Rings-esque movie?
Here's the good news: Stewart sheds whatever Twilight stigma she had going into Snow White and the Huntsman and becomes an actress capable of portraying a warrior princess leading a rebellion against a wicked queen. Not once does Stewart brush her hair behind her ear or bite her lip, the go-to tics that the actress has relied on in almost every movie she's been in, whether they were the Twilight movies or the underrated Adventureland. Her portrayal of Snow White shows that Stewart is capable of something beyond the caricature of her that we've come to accept.
The only downfall of Stewart's performance is that, at times, there's not enough of it. The movie has the tendency to occasionally make Snow White a supporting character in her own story. If there's a sequel (something that Stewart has expressed interest in), the writers will need to take advantage of the character they've only begun to explore through Stewart.
Let's talk about Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman. An epic movie needs an epic villain, and to paraphrase Theron's character's words, the actress gives that world the wretched queen it deserves. There's no grey area with Theron's Queen Ravenna. She's not misunderstood nor is she looking for redemption. She is an evil queen, pure and simple. Theron clearly was having a blast playing Ravenna, wildly vacillating from chilling reservation to psychotic outbursts. Theron's costumes were designed by Colleen Atwood, an Oscar-winning costume designer and a veteran of films like Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha and Alice in Wonderland, and those costumes perfectly embody the evilness of Theron's queen.
The complete visual quality of Snow White and the Huntsman is one of its most surprising features. In addition to Atwood's costume design, the movie is shot as if it were an film seeking an Oscar. The movie is ambitious in its sweeping shots of Snow White's army riding on horseback across a beach or a sanctuary village in flames. Don't be surprised to see Snow White and the Huntsman score an Oscar nomination for Best Cinematography or Best Art Direction.
Snow White and the Huntsman is a movie made up of many moving pieces besides just Stewart's Snow White and Theron's Queen Ravenna. Chris Hemsworth plays the eponymous Huntsman, digging deeper for this character than he's had to while playing Marvel's Thor. The dwarves are played by a great group of actors, among them Ian McShane and Toby Jones. The special effects used to turn these average-height actors into the shorter dwarves is seamless.
Hewing to the usual fairy tale plan, Snow White and the Huntsman does include a prince for Snow White, with Sam Claflin playing William. This character is one of the movie's few weak spots, often coming across as being in the movie just because there should be a prince in a Snow White story. Claflin doesn't bring anything spectacular to the role, finding himself in a similar situation as when he played the guy who fell in love with a mermaid in Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides. Yeah, he's there, but if he wasn't, you probably would care.
In the wake of The Avengers, we've endured week after week of disappointments at the movies. Snow White and the Huntsman is a surprisingly admirable film, holding itself to a level of quality that you don't often see in a movie of its kind.