Wednesday, June 06, 2012

snow white and the huntsman

The title says it all. The strengths of the latest film to retell the fairy tale of the girl with "skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood and hair black as coal," Snow White and the Huntsman lie with the princess and her unexpected ally, the huntsman. Kristen Stewart, probably relieved to not have to sit or stand around and sigh while her supernatural boyfriend waffles on what's the right thing to do, takes charge of her own destiny and is a Snow White for the modern age. Chris Hemsworth continues to prove he is matinee idol-worthy as the title character, a drunken, broken-hearted widower who may have found something, or someone, to believe in.

Charlize Theron gives her all in her role as the evil Queen Ravenna. She tries, she really does. She is certainly beautiful, and is garbed magnificently in amazing and fantastic costumes by Colleen Atwood that incorporate such materials as ravens' and beetles' wings. She favors eating the hearts of small birds and sucking the energy out of female beauties to maintain her youthful complexion and magical power. But unfortunately, every time Ravenna or her completely horrid sycophantic (and psychotic) brother Finn (Sam Spruell) are on screen the energy gets sucked out of the movie. Ravenna is so evil, so horrible, and without the slightest trace of humor that there is no chance for the audience to connect with her. The script has her rave about how she has been mistreated by men, but there isn't enough backstory to garner any understanding or sympathy. She is depicted as just mean and crazy, which may have worked for Disney's animated Queen, but there is nothing cartoony or over-the-top in this performance — it's just uncomfortable to watch.

Happily, once we get past most of Ravenna's evil torture scenes at the start of the movie the rest and bulk of the story belongs to Snow White and you-know-who. In the current style of the day, Snow does have another fella who is mooning after her, Prince William (Sam Claflin), a childhood friend, but the film's title and Hemsworth's sheer magnetism should give the audience the hint that anyone else who is vying for Snow's heart is a non-starter.

The look of the film is extraordinary, and does help to get one through the darker or slower parts. The much-lauded special effects that help transform great British character actors Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, and Brian Gleeson into dwarfs is remarkable. There is also a nod to Disney magic, when Snow first encounters a beautiful forest, untouched by Ravenna's evil, full of friendly fairies and animals that bow at her feet. Final verdict? Director Rupert Sanders may have served his second-billed (!) star better by dialing down Ravenna's evil, and making Chalize less loathsome, and thus opening his film up for a wider audience. But Snow White and the Huntsman is entertaining. It's a visual feast and a Snow White for adults only.
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