Movie Review: “Snow White and the Huntsman”

By Teresa Jue

Daily Bruin, U. California-Los Angeles via UWIRE

Unlike the Disney classic, this rendition of the fairy tale of Snow White has way less woodland creatures singing and a lot more stabbing, murderous stares and dead birds.

Directed by Rupert Sanders, “Snow White and the Huntsman” follows the darker route of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, in which Snow White (Kristen Stewart) must take back the kingdom from the oppressive Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who usurped the throne by marrying her father and killing him in the sack.

Once the audience accepts that Kristen Stewart is supposed to trump Charlize Theron in the looks department, the premise of the fairy tale becomes easier to fathom.

Put under a spell by her mother as a child to preserve her beauty, Ravenna is a megalomaniac about her looks, and it doesn’t help that her brother Finn (Sam Spruell) is equally obsessed with his sister to a creepy degree.

Subsisting on a rich diet of birds’ hearts, it’s a little surprising to see Ravenna keep her figure, but then it becomes clear that she derives her looks by sucking the life out of young girls and dunking herself into weird milk baths, crown and all. Locking Snow White up in the castle for 10 years, Ravenna learns from her giant platter of a mirror that she must devour Snow White’s heart to fully gain the immortality she desires.

When Snow White escapes the castle, Ravenna sends the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down. The Huntsman decides to take sides with Snow White and takes the opportunity to breathe in her face for romantic tension by teaching her how to fight in combat, giving her the necessary skills to battle Ravenna for her rightful kingdom.

While her English accent vacillates in and out of varying degrees of mumbling and mouth breathing, Stewart’s Snow White is all right, and at least she had a suit of armor to avoid slouching in the battle scenes. It is Theron’s appropriately over-the-top Ravenna that invigorates the screen and actually provides a decent argument on the problematic emphasis placed on women’s looks.

The special effects are especially impressive, from the knights made out of slick black shards to the intricately detailed dark forest. Likewise, costume designer Colleen Atwood deserves props for Ravenna’s couture-like gowns that simultaneously look high fashion while echoing a Darth Vader-level malevolence.

Like Ravenna’s vanity issues, though, the film becomes a little more obsessed with looks over substance. The gorgeous cinematography and sweeping images of bloodshed take precedence over various plot holes throughout the film. For instance, Ravenna’s powers cannot work in the dark forest, yet she manages to swing on by and trick Snow White into biting into that wretched apple.

The film lacks the interludes of humor necessary for its two-hour run time, though the rambunctious dwarves who show up halfway through the film give a little rest to the constant battlement and queen tantrums. While a little formulaic, the sumptuous cinematography and attention to detail in design are truly sights to see.

Also, it’s just nice to see a Snow White wielding a sword instead of a broom covered in chirpy birds for a change.

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