daniel cohen wonders if this will be the fairest of them all…
Plot: A re-telling of the classic Snow White fairy tale in which the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) takes over a kingdom, locking the princess heir Snow White (Kristen Stewart) in a tower for many years. But when she escapes, the Queen needs Snow White in order to live forever, enlisting the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down in the mysterious dark forest.
Why can’t Charlize Theron be in every movie? She’s such a damn good actress, maybe the best actress working in Hollywood today. Her versatility is incredible, as she can do a film like Young Adult, and then transition seamlessly into the fantasy world of Snow White and the Huntsman. But Theron isn’t the only good thing to come out of this darkened version of Snow White. It’s certainly not a perfect movie, but I was thoroughly engaged the whole way through.
But the discussion does begin with Charlize Theron. She plays the evil Queen Ravenna, and is fascinating from her first moment on screen, shown ravaged and beaten in the back of a carriage. When an actor can engage you with just their looks and facial expressions, you’ve proven you are in the elite class, unlike another actress in this film…but we’ll get to that later. What Theron does with her eyes is ridiculous. Now I know a lot of the credit goes to the make-up and visuals for giving her this crazy bloodshot look the whole time, but it’s Theron who brings the personality of this Queen to life.
But aside from her non-speaking parts, she delivers lines like it’s the last movie of her career. Many actors and actresses would have failed to make this dialogue compelling (Mirror, mirror on the wall…come on), but she makes this potentially silly material feel powerful, perfectly emulating who the character is. There’s not much more to say. Her performance and character alone is worth the price of admission. They also give her a really intriguing back story. And while she dominates the first act of the film, she is used only sparingly the rest of it, but I think her elusiveness works well for the movie.
The other stand-out performance of the film has to go to Thor himself, Chris Hemsworth. Yeah, this guy’s career is taking off. He’s just charismatic as hell, and an easy guy to invest in. He also swings a hammer like weapon throughout the movie, so how can you go wrong? He certainly has experience doing that. The dwarves were also a lot of fun. They are bad asses, but also provide a lot of levity at a point in the film where it’s really needed. Ian McShane plays the de-facto leader, and is a real delight, as is Bob Hoskins who is impossible to dislike. I even like him in Super Mario Brothers for crying out loud. And just so you know, these dwarves don’t have names like Sleepy, Bashful, Sneezy, and so on, as this is a more serious version of the fairy tale. But we’ve avoided the elephant in the room long enough, so let’s get to it.
Kristen Stewart of Twilight fame plays the title role of Snow White. Bottom-line: She’s fine. I’m not saying she’s incredible or anything, but she doesn’t hurt the movie, and is just kind of there. She sort of reminds me of Katie Holmes in Batman Begins, who I think is adequate. Her biggest problem is that she just looks confused a lot of the time. It’s very distracting. But what’s strange about this movie is that Snow White gets a lot of screen time, yet she really isn’t given much to do. She has very little dialogue. It’s almost like the film is trying to hide her. If you are trying to hide Kristen Stewart so much, then why not, oh, I don’t know…cast somebody else! I will give Stewart credit though, as she delivers well in the final moments, and doesn’t completely melt away in the presence of Theron.
The worst performance of the movie was actually Sam Spruell who plays the Queen’s brother Finn. This might be more of a script issue though, as this character was just a complete dumb ass. His stupidity really hurt the film’s story, as he is constantly revealing his intensions to his enemies’ way before he accomplishes them. He’s just a complete bumbling idiot. It makes no sense that the Queen would entrust this guy with hugely important tasks, except the fact that he’s family.
The story is a bit clunky in general. There are a lot of magical elements that are just randomly thrown in there, especially in regards to the Queen’s powers that never really get an explanation. Something happens towards the end as well that you know is going to happen, but it makes no sense, and is not properly explained. It involves a kiss, and that’s all I’m going to say. The movie is also very predictable, but because I’m so enamored with the characters, I let this stuff slide for the most part. We are dealing with fantasy after all.
What else does a good fantasy film need? Great visuals, and this movie certainly isn’t lacking in that department. It’s a gorgeous looking film, and the transitions of very dark and bleak to the colorful and beautiful are seamless. And even though the visuals of the creatures and landscapes are a CG fest, I appreciated the rendering in that they did feel like fantasy films of old. The special effects involving the Queen’s powers are especially impressive, with particular emphasis on crows.
The pacing is very good for the most part, but it definitely drags, and I was kind of spent by the time we get to the big climax. But if you’re a fantasy fan, this is definitely a movie for you. It’s great to look at, and there are plenty of intriguing characters to keep you invested, with an especially awesome performance from Theron that I think is close to Oscar level. It’s also got a pretty solid score (James Newton Howard). It’s also important to note the director, Rupert Sanders. He does a great job, and if you go to his IMDB profile, he barely has anything else listed. For a first outing, this is pretty damn good.
Rating: 7.5 out of 10 (Very Good)