Science fiction and fantasy                                            

Snow White and the Huntsman

directed by Rupert Sanders


In this age of democracy and the ideal of equal chances for all, monarchies are a hard sell. In fiction, even more so. Snow White and the Huntsman makes the case for the prerogative of royal birth by giving Snow White (Kristen Stewart) a magical abundance of "heart" and a face that's an eleven on a scale of one to ten. At least one of those qualities she got by choosing her parents carefully, but no matter. Hollywood: standing up for unearned privilege since they realised it applied to them.

Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) has style, but she's also crazy and her evil magic is killing off the kingdom. She has locked Snow White up in a tower after killing the king. This is no dainty fairy tale that tiptoes around the brutality, it's soaked in blood from the get go. And in spite of her looks and fantastic clothes, Ravenna isn't vain for the sake of it. She sometimes uses her beauty as a weapon, but after some bad experiences whe has no use for love.

Something new to this version is Ravenna's brother, Finn (Sam Spruell). He's a standard villain with scars, a permanent frown, and dodgy too-white hair. When Snow White escapes her prison he plays a part in hunting her down, recruiting the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth). However he's superfluous. Ravenna has the Huntsman to do her tracking, and when he decides he doesn't want to be one of the bad guys the wicked queen is more than capable of using her magic to get to the princess. Finn is unambiguously villainous, right down to his stereotypical all-black outfit. Other than reinforcing the very obvious message that Ravenna is wicked, I'm not sure why Finn is there at all.

Another spare part is William (Sam Claflin), Snow White's childhood friend. He's somewhat guilty about leaving her at the time of Ravenna's coup, when he'd come to believe she was dead. He seems to be a bit surplus to narrative requirements because there seems to be more of a love story developing between Snow White and the Huntsman, and anyway this is a version of the fairytale that sidelines the men considerably. If Snow White is going to save the kingdom it won't be thanks to true love's kiss or any such romantic nonsense, it'll be because she raises an army and fights for what she believes in.

There are eight dwarves, all of them tall actors brought down to size by special effects. Those special effects also supply trolls, fairies, mushrooms with eyes, and magic that ranges from sparkly to terrible. It's sumptuous. Amidst all of this glitter there's a ton of mud, especially whenever Chris Hemsworth is on screen for some reason. The Huntsman has some back story about grieving for his wife which has led him to drink, as a result of which he's not as afraid of Ravenna as everyone else is. He thinks he has nothing to lose. So much of this film is out of the official handbook of fantasy clichés. Even when there's a non-standard number of dwarves it's a predictable ploy rather than an interesting twist.

Snow White and the Huntsman is quite weepy. The parts of it set in the woods are sappy, but thankfully the dwarves never stoop to a hi-ho. It's too busy going for intensity to be funny, and there are too many minor characters for any of them to have time to make us care about them. I suspect this is because there were too many writers involved in this story-broth. Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini have created a script that seems to pull in all sorts of different directions, with hints of lots of little sub-plots that never really come to anything. There's also a major plot hole when Ravenna knows very well how her spell can be broken, but completely fails to do anything about Snow White while she's growing up.

"I will give this wretched world the Queen it deserves!" Charlize Theron yells. Who knows, maybe one day she will? But this melodramatic, oversimplified screecher isn't her, and neither is Kristen Stewart's under-imagined Snow White.

4th June 2012

Film Details

Year: 2012

Categories: Films


Classification: 12

If you like this, try:

Brave cover    

Brave by Mark Andrews, Brenda Chapman and Steve Purcell
In a fantasy Scotland full of bears, kilts, and haggis, Princess Merida fights for the right to decide her own fate.

Mirror, Mirror cover    

Mirror, Mirror by Tarsem Singh
Snow White does battle with a vain, evil queen obsessed with expensive and ridiculous couture.

3 star rating

Review ©