Blood on the snow
A fairy tale most famously committed to paper by Jakob and Wilhelm Grimm, the original fable of “Snow White” is far darker than the bird-loving princess Disney gave us in 1937. Now “Snow White And The Huntsman” is going back to the story’s dark roots by reconfiguring this story as a fantasy that’s obviously influenced by “The Lord Of The Rings” movies.
After seducing and then killing the king, the evil Ravenna (Charlize Theron) takes his throne and imprisons the king’s kid and rightful heir, Princess Snow White. But years later, when the Queen realizes that she’ll soon be usurped, both politically and aesthetically, by White (Kristen Stewart), she tries to eliminate the fair maiden, only to have the plucky Princess escape in hopes of taking back the throne.
It’s an interesting take on this well-known story, one that, at times, can be quite exhilarating and visually stimulating, especially if you like fairy tales but not when they’re covered in sugar. That said, it can also be a bit ludicrous, though only in the way all fairy tales are a bit ludicrous. Sure, one bit with a horse inspired derisive chuckles from the audience for good reason, but “White” is the kind of movie you either buy into completely, or you just find it too silly.
Helping combat this silliness is the cast, who were perfectly…uh, cast. Theron is positively frightening as Queen Ravenna, a real bitch on wheels who gleefully chews up the scenery, though Stewart more than holds her own, showing a strength that makes her seem like the kind of person who could not only face down a huge troll but make the beast respect her as well.
Meanwhile, the men in “White” are just as suited for their roles, especially Hemsworth, who’s a total Thor in this movie. Pruell, on the flipside, is perfectly creepy, sniveling when his sister’s dominating him, but venting his frustration when she’s not around. And then there’s the dwarves — including Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, and Nick Frost — any of whom could stand aside Gimli without question.
The film also has a vivid visual style, one that might make you think this is the “Snow White” movie that was made by Tarsem, who previously directed “The Cell.” But it was actually made by Rupert Sanders, who’s best known to gamers for directing the live action TV commercials for “Call Of Duty: Black Ops,” “Halo: OSDT,” and “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” Armed with an obviously bigger budget, Sanders fills “White” with some wonderfully inventive special effects, as well as some wild costumes that make Theron look regal and scary at the same time. Suffice it to say that Sanders not only owes a lot to his special effects team, but to his director of photographer and his costumer as well.
In the end, though, “Snow White And The Hunstman” didn’t blow me away like I hoped it would — I was kind of hoping Stewart was going to kick a bit more butt than she did — but it was still really engaging, especially visually. It reminded me of Ridley Scott’s own fantasy epic, “Legend,” though someone who disliked that movie felt it had more in common with “Pan’s Labyrinth.” Either way, it’s an engaging and different take on a classic, one that wouldn’t have worked for Walt Disney, but the Brothers Grimm would be pleased.