After the financial success of Tim Burton’s dark recreation of Alice in Wonderland two years ago, producer Joe Roth attempts to replicate that with Snow White and the Huntsman. He followed the same formula: a respectable, all-star cast and a visionary director that makes great use of CGI, but it ultimately carries the same blemishes as Burton’s feature. Snow White and the Huntsman is a grand spectacle with surreal imagery and solid performances from its stars, but the film’s bland screenplay coupled with underdeveloped characters makes it a visually stunning misfire.
The grim reboot will have audiences throwing their Disney-built vision of Snow White out the window within the first minutes of the film. The movie opens with the sad history of Snow White (Kristen Stewart), who was imprisoned by her evil stepmother, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) after the murder of the king. The ruthless queen is eventually told by the magic mirror that she is no longer the fairest of them all, and Ravenna must eat Snow White’s heart to remain in power and gain immortality. Snow White manages to escape her prison, but travels to the Dark Forest, where even the queen scares to venture. She decides to hire a huntsman named Eric (played by Thor…I mean Chris Hemsworth) to find her. The huntsman finds Snow White, but her innocent beauty and his pity for her changes his mind. Eric decides to stay with Snow White and teach her the art of war to help her overthrow the queen…and then it pretty much goes downhill from there. The film jumped to a promising start with compelling storytelling and dazzling visuals, but ultimately stumbles across the finish line as more characters, such as Prince William (Sam Claflin), the supposedly humorous dwarfs and a brief encounter with a troll in the Dark Forest that may have been the film’s “nuke the fridge” moment (look it up, people), are introduced.
The screenplay, written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini, clearly emphasizes Snow White’s destiny and her journey toward it, but it fails to develop everyone around her. Theron delivers a great performance as the evil queen, and Stewart surprisingly shines as Snow White, showing a natural timidity and innocence that goes very well with the character. Hemsworth struggles to settle on an accent (is he Scottish?) for the huntsman, but, nonetheless, delivers a typical heroic performance. Unfortunately for the writers, the stellar performances were unable to lift the film’s mediocre second half. The lack of romance and chemistry between Snow White and Eric made the waning moments of the story difficult to believe. And the addition of William forces a love triangle that is simply not there. The thin story failed to develop any love whatsoever, making any kissing scene feel as awkward as Kristen Stewart’s interviews. The director attempted to disguise the hollow screenplay with a computer-generated visual feast and it damn nearly worked.
It may be Rupert Sanders’ feature debut, but the highly-regarded director comes with an impressive commercial résumé, including television spots for Halo 3, Halo: ODST and the memorable Call of Duty: Black Ops ad featuring Kobe Bryant and Jimmy Kimmel. Sanders successfully carried over that gloomy, dramatic vision to Snow White and the Huntsman. While a few scenes look cartoon-like, the first-time director creates a world so vast and believable, that it is nearly comparable to Middle Earth thanks to the remarkable set designs.
Those easily influenced by eye candy will fall prey to Sanders’ vision of a dystopian, Medieval Europe. Snow White and the Huntsman has the CGI chops to dazzle, but falls just short of the mark to warrant a second date.