Style overthrows substance in "Snow White and the Huntsman"
Reviving what's considered a timeless story and throwing it onto the big screen is a tricky feat. Moviemakers who stick to closely to the source material often get slammed for being lazy and unimaginative, but those who stray too far into original territory often face the wrath of purist fans.
As a fairy tale, Snow White (I hope) doesn't have a drove of diehards at the ready to rip any possible retelling a new one on various online message boards. What the new "Snow White and the Huntsman" has to contend with instead is the extent to which people will accept contemporary tweaks to the Disney-style tale they've had ingrained in their brains since childhood.
"Snow White and the Huntsman" is a mixed bag as far as story is concerned. Elements from the Grimm story are intertwined with original plot in about a 1:2 ratio – a recipe for a solid reboot of a dry children's story, if the new bits weren't completely failed by the dialogue that came with them. To be fair, the most awkward of it comes out of the hole in Kristen Stewart's singular expression-ed face.
The rest was relegated to supporting characters and Charlize Theron's vain, unstable Queen Ravenna. The Evil Queen got more play in this version, but the added backstory and depth also humanized her in a way that, for me, was a major letdown after the previews hyped up her malice factor. Theron's performance, to her credit, was still cold, calculating and dripping with venom whenever possible.
Perhaps the biggest and most unnecessary add-on was the bizarre and useless "love triangle" between Snow White, the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and Snow's childhood friend William (Sam Claflin, "Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides"). The minor purposes it did serve could have easily been rewritten, and cutting William out completely would have saved the audience the trouble of slogging through storyline fat that could have been easily trimmed off the movie's two-hour runtime. Frankly, it was a half-assed attempt to tap into Stewart's "Twilight" fanbase that only cheapened the film.
If they wanted to make proper use of extra screentime they should have given it to the dwarfs. This artificially pint-sized group created the film's original buzz after names like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone were announced among the actors cast. Sadly, they didn't get much to do.
Most of the time, money and effort put into "Snow White and the Huntsman," it seems, went into the visuals. At least in doing this the filmmakers gave audiences something with a little complexity. The costumes (and here I'm speaking mostly for the Evil Queen) are stunning. The effects on the Dark Forest and the queen's sinister manifestations are a stylish blend of realism and storybook fantasy. And, there are plenty of sweeping scenic shots to take advantage of the landscape.
I'd like to think I've been too spoiled by the epic scale of the "Lord of the Rings" and "Harry Potter" franchises to appreciate a single-movie "Once Upon a Time" venture like this. But between the stilted dialogue and weak, useless romantic subplot, there were too many "really?!" moments to keep me engrossed. "Snow White and the Huntsman" could have been good. Instead, it's just another pretty movie.
Theaters and showtimes for Snow White and the Huntsman
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