Snow White & The Huntsman is a fantastically dark reboot of the Grimm classic that does for the fairytale genre what the Dark Knight trilogy has done for comic adaptations. First-time director Rupert Sanders has made an impressive debut with the strikingly visual film, but perhaps has attempted to spin out the story a little longer than it can handle.
At its core, the film is based on the familiar fairytale story – a young Princess must escape the murderous intent of her evil stepmother who longs for her heart to sustain her magical powers. The Princess must return in time (aided by a band of dwarves) to take her rightful place on the throne and destroy the evil that has ravaged the kingdom. Beyond the simple tale Snow White & The Huntsman adds a much greater degree of darkness and depth, touching upon murder, oppression, sexual jealousy and black magic. It is additions such as this that position the film as a combination of popular genres. Instead of the more childlike story-telling usually associated with fairytales the film marks a return to the mature folklore style that the fairytale was originally intended to be. A medieval epic that borders on the mythological, it is infused with the fantasy feel of the Lord of the Rings films to clearly portray the division between the forces of good and evil, and it is the vibrant contrast of the two that allows for the film’s incredible visual effects to take full effect.
The world is of course only as real as the characters that inhabit it, and I must admit that I was sceptical with the casting of Kristen Stewart as Snow White. She performs adequately but no more, and seems unable to shoulder the burden of leading lady. Thankfully she is aided by some stellar performances from Charlize Theron as evil Queen Ravenna and Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman. Some of Theron’s scenes are arguably the best in the film and her talent is evident, even as she attempts to grasp the transient nature of her character. Hemsworth brings the gruff masculinity to the screen, despite having to share that position with a rather irrelevant Lord William (Sam Claflin). Hemsworth is a welcome addition to the lineup but unfortunately remains in the shadow of Stewart as the film gives lead to the strong female protagonist. In this way, Hemsworth always remains slightly sidelined and unable to deliver a true performance.
The dwarves are all present and correct true to the original tale, but serve largely to articulate the nature of Snow White’s destiny. Just as the Huntsman must take a backseat to the ‘warrior Princess’, so the dwarves must also play secondary roles of the Huntsman. They do however provide a little comedic relief but are then relegated to a single act in the upcoming battle and then disappear. It’s such a shame for the group who include British luminaries such as Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones.
This uncomfortable struggle between a hierarchy of characters creates a slight unevenness in scripting and pace. The love interest role is now split between Lord William and the Huntsman, which seems a bit too close to Twilight territory for my liking. However the film skims over this particular storyline, either out of a preference for strong women or out of sheer laziness. Either way, the bizarre love triangle is never resolved and as a result a sense of closure is not attained.
Snow White & the Huntsman has its faults, but I found that the wonderful visuals and hugely entertaining tale was enough of a distraction to either miss the majority of them, or simply to not care. The film toys dangerously with the boundaries between family entertainment and something more mature, widening the target audience of this new fairytale remake. It is cruel, twisted and darkly enjoyable but unfortunately span itself a little too thin.