Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)
What's next - Bambizilla?
Snow White and the Huntsman turns the once Disneyfied fairy tale upside down. In fact, in one scene, Snow White (Kristen Stewart) and the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) are literally hanging upside down from a tree snared by dwarfs.
Snow White and the Huntsman is full of such original images.
At its best, Snow White and the Huntsman is a bold, vivid, imaginative retelling of a beloved fairy tale. It is both stark and gorgeous, bleak and beautiful. In this version, the powerful conflict is between age and youth.
Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) murders her husband, has Snow White imprisoned, and rules over a blighted land, whose impoverished people live in fear.
Ravenna keeps her youth by brutally taking the vitality from young females. Some of the females in the realm scar their own faces so they won't be resources of youth and beauty for Ravenna. These are not Uncle Walt's shiny faces.
Director Rupert Sanders comes from the world of tv commercials, and it's obvious in his first feature. His strength is imagery. Ravenna sinks into a white milk bath, a red apple rots, and black birds soar in a frenzy.
A white horse gallops, the face of Snow White gleams, and Ravenna stands in blazing fire. The images often do not have the charm of yore - the white horse winds up in quicksand.
Sanders is not nearly as effective in action sequences, which often veer into blurriness. Editors Conrad Buff and Neil Smith tend toward choppiness.
Screenwriter Evan Daugherty, aided by John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini, has some cleverness. One wonders if his ending was changed. The movie is vibrant and imaginative most of the way, but it slides into a very generic conclusion.
The acting is effective. It might seem a bit dubious for the mirror to state that Snow White is the fairest in the land - when the Queen is beautiful Charlize Theron and her competition is pretty Kristen Stewart. But the emphasis is on age and aging, which gives the contrast some credibility.
Charlize Theron, who has said her portrayal of Ravenna was influenced by Jack Nicholson's performance in The Shining, glows and glowers as the scheming queen.
Kristen Stewart is convincing as Snow White, until she's encased in armor as a faux-Joan of Arc. Colleen Atwood, the costume designer who has been awarded three Oscars, does Stewart no favors when she puts the youthful heroine in metal. Stewart looks like canned youth. It's not a great image for her.
Chris Hemsworth has heft and power as the huntsman, who first hunts Snow White and then helps her.
The motley gang of eight dwarfs is ably portrayed by gifted actors.
I know you're not supposed to grieve for wickedness lost, but when it has a face like Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman, it may give one pause.