By Paul Anthony Jonze.
(This review contains spoilers)
First things first, I need to give the reasons why initially I wasn’t about to rush to the cinema on opening day (or even opening week) to see this film. Firstly, Kristen Stewart. While never a fan, a few weeks ago I made the mistake of watching her on The Graham Norton Show, and to be honest, she may as well not have been there for all she contributed to the ‘entertainment’ value of the programme. After hearing many a horror story about how (frankly) boring she is, it had almost put me off wanting to see the film. But that wasn’t enough to stop me from going. The second reason I wasn’t in a rush to see the film was the ominous “From the producers of Alice in Wonderland” wording that was strewn across billboards and posters everywhere. I wasn’t a big fan of Alice, and have lately become a little tired of Burton’s recent batch of films, so knowing it was from the same producers, while it shouldn’t have put me off seeing Snow White, I have to admit, it did a little. Then of course we have the fact that it is a remake of a tale we’ve known pretty much all of our lives, and if I never hear “remake” again it’ll be too soon. I simply reduced the film to a real-life version of something we already know and have watched in animated form on countless Bank Holidays when growing up. Finally, and probably the one thing that will possibly slightly cripple Snow White‘s success, is one other small film that has been released the same weekend, Prometheus, Theron’s other summer blockbuster.
But, surprisingly, after going to see the film today, I thoroughly enjoyed it from start to finish.
Hands up everyone who went to see the version with Lily Collins and Julia Roberts this year? I thought so. I have to admit, other than the Disney cartoon, I don’t know any other version of Snow White well enough to make comparisons, so this review will only bear in mind what I know from the original 1930s classic: Pretty girl is hated by queen, escapes her evil clutches, meets seven dwarfs, music and comedy ensue, queen tricks her into eating an apple, girl momentarily dies (or rather is put under a spell), is kissed by Prince Charming, is revived and they live happily ever after, and the rest is (film) history. Throw in some delightful animals and an enchanted forest, change the title slightly and there you have it – Snow White and the Huntsman. Well. Kind of. Yes and no. While all of those elements form a strong backbone to this film, there are further additions that remove this from a children’s film, which I will explain shortly.
Unlike Alice in Wonderland, I didn’t feel like I was constantly being reminded when watching that everything is CGI. I felt like the world was real, like the actors were really there and not stood in front of a green screen in almost every shot. The enchanted forest reminded me of the days when I would sit down as a kid and put on my Labyrinth, Dark Crystal or Legend DVDs. It’s easy to feel threatened by the forest, if only for the fact that it is unsure to the spectator what is real, and what is a hallucination.
Each actor is actually perfect for the role they play. Let’s face it, the general consensus is Charlize Theron is probably universally accepted as one of the modern day beauties of contemporary Hollywood. There has to be some irony in the fact that for a woman playing an evil queen who is obsessed with her fading looks and mortality, Theron actually gets more beautiful with age (for this reviewer at least). As the evil Queen Ravenna, she makes Meredith Vickers look like the spoilt little sister who never got her hands on the crown. Yet, at the same time, she manages to retain an element of luxurious beauty about her – whether it is seductively sitting on her throne or bathing in milk – her striking features making her perfect for the role.
Hemsworth is equally as suited to his role as the Huntsman as Theron is the queen. Tall, rugged, and of course featuring the obligatory topless shot that will almost predictably feature somewhere the majority of Hemsworth films throughout his career (despite in this film the body in question is covered in blood), he plays his part well as Snow White’s huntsman-come-guardian-come love interest.
Even Kirsten Stewart, rather unexpectedly, fills Snow White’s boots with some adequacy. In fact, with her face as white as snow and her hair as black as ebony, by the end of the film I found myself totally convinced by her portrayal as the fairytale princess. While still not convinced I’m going to watch the final Twilight instalment or any of the other parts of that particular franchise any time soon, there are certain scenes where I felt she came alive, let her hair down, and became completely detached from the rather unentertaining persona we see in real life. To sum her up, the was actually quite convincing!
The supporting cast are also particularly enjoyable to watch. I’m thinking of the dwarfs here, who are nothing short (excuse the pun) of brilliant. Not knowing who was playing them prior to watching the film, it was quite enjoyable to watch them, and slowly but surely realise who was playing each dwarf.
However the dwarfs themselves are just one link to what makes this fairytale more adult and less kid friendly. Ravenna is enough to scare any grown man, let alone his children. The scene in which she idly presides over her empire while picking the organs of a dead robin out of its fresh dead body with one hooked finger to put them into her mouth is enough to make anyone feel uneasy. The dwarfs themselves are portrayed as scavengers and killers of men and women, and resemble something you might find in Middle Earth rather than a fairytale film.
However, all these elements simply add to the enjoyment that as I, a 35 year old man, thoroughly admit to finding in this film. While it is probably not going to appear near the top spot of the biggest grossing films of the year, with films such as Avengers Assemble, Prometheus and the soon-to-be-released Dark Knight Rises destined to dominate the top of the list, Snow White and The Huntsman won’t be far behind and will at least fill the gap somewhat between Ridley Scott’s sci-fi epic and the return of Batman. While many people mourn the presence of lost opportunities and muddled plot in Prometheus, and try to like a prequel they never quite got, Snow White at least offers a welcome distraction between now and waiting to see Bane rip apart Gotham City. More a grown up adaptation than a remake of the Disney classic, and with great special effects and even the odd monstrous troll, Snow White and the Huntsman is an utterly enjoyable fantasy film, (not) suitable for all ages.