Snow White & The Huntsman is a beautiful magpie and revision of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale. While it may sound like a pretentious new wall paint, you won't feel like you're watching it dry. Recent Snow White adaptation Mirror Mirror is a pantomime compared with Snow White & The Huntsman, which spins an intensely dark, mature and captivating tale from an old thread. Charlize Theron's commanding performance as the evil queen Ravenna sets the stage for franchise figureheads Chris Hemsworth (Thor) and Kristen Stewart (Twilight), who draw together in the hopes of restoring the kingdom to its former glory.
Snow White & The Huntsman is brought to screen by the same producer of Tim Burton's reimagining of Alice in Wonderland. Both films have their similarities, delivering a visually decadent and dark adaptation of a classic fantasy tale for an older audience with parallels in plot, casting and theme. Burton's take was entertaining and twisted, but the scope seemed a bit too broad for the director, who you wouldn't usually associate with the word 'epic'.
Charlize Theron conjures up the quintessential evil queen with a dark, maniacal performance that echoes Jean Marsh in Willow and Michelle Pfeiffer in Stardust. After witnessing her passionate performance, it's difficult to think of someone who could have made a worthy substitute. Her embittered fury and pure evil is palpable and you imagine she was able to exorcise some of her own personal demons in the process, whilst somehow managing to harness the inner complexities of her fallen character.
Kristen Stewart breathes new life into Snow White, delivering one of her better performances. Her raven hair and fair complexion make her a perfect physical match for the title character and she also brings her every-girl innocence from the Twilight saga with the added dimension of a young Joan of Arc. Chris Hemsworth is more of a woodsman than a huntsman, yet wields an accent and sullen pride in a fairly physical role without much restraint from the trappings of his iconic Thor.
Snow White & The Huntsman has made some imaginative revisions, including a Terminator 2 style mirror, a battle with a mud-slinging forest troll and Sam Spruell as the queen's evil brother and head henchman. The dwarves are another intrigue for Snow White & The Huntsman pooling some of the best British acting talent in: Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris and Brian Gleeson. There's probably some controversy over the casting, since dwarf actors made the cut in Willow and Mirror Mirror, nevertheless the visual effects are impressive.
Rupert Sanders was hired to direct, moving from the world of advertising to relative obscurity in film. He may not have the same credentials as Peter Jackson (The Lord of the Rings), but it's as if he was briefed to direct with Julie Taymor's artistic eye (Titus) and Ron Howard's knack for storytelling (Willow). The end result is a dark, iconic and sweeping fairy tale that echoes as a unintentional tribute to some of the most popular fantasy films from the last three decades.
The film is laced together by these "references"... the swamps recall The Neverending Story and The Princess Bride. The Huntsman, forest nymphs, evil queen and storming the castle owe Willow and Val Kilmer a debt of gratitude. The seven dwarves are a derivative of Little John and his bandits and the beach invasion casts our minds back to Ridley Scott's Robin Hood. The epic mountain top journey and horseback chase echo Lord of the Rings. Ravenna is the embodiment of Julie Taymor's The Tempest with elements from Stardust, while Snow White's arc is actually Joan's.
Despite being something of a magpie's trinket box, the film still manages to swathe us in its dark, magical world. The beautiful cinematography and luscious visuals keep us transfixed as the couple-on-the-run carry the adventure forward. Snow White & The Huntsman starts dark and medieval like Excalibur, transforms into an Alice in Wonderland and finishes where Monty Python & The Holy Grail left off... okay, just not as funny and more like Joan of Arc.
The bottom line: Surreal