Movie Review: Snow White and the Huntsman
By Matthew Huntley
June 12, 2012
And it just wouldn’t be Snow White without the seven dwarves, who show up about halfway through and start cracking jokes and asking Snow White to dance. When I first saw them, I recognized the actors Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones and Eddie Marsan, among others. Then I thought, “These guys aren’t actually little people.” The filmmakers and special effects team have done a seamless job of using forced perspective and digital effects to make these large men appear as dwarves. I didn’t notice a single instance where a double was used or the CGI was obvious. I’m still not sure why actual little people weren’t cast, but even so, the effects were uncanny.
The film combines a childlike sensibility with a dark and rousing adventure story. It gives us lovely, magnetic scenes like Snow White entering the verdant forest of the fairies, where soft, cuddly creatures like rabbits and butterflies willfully bow down to her, followed by tough, brooding and often violent chase scenes and battle sequences. But the violence is effective and not too harsh. It helps make the movie unique because Snow White is depicted as a forceful heroine able to fend for herself, fight off men and balance strength and endurance with empathy and beauty.
You’d think the grandiose production values would overshadow the characters in a story like this, but the cast lends weight to their roles, especially Theron and Hemsworth. Each possesses a strong and natural screen presence, and not just because they’re good-looking, but because they’re commanding and convincing. Theron is mean, evil and wretched as Ravenna, a character that could have easily been played over-the-top, but Theron shows restraint and there are times when we sense her malevolent calculating. A particularly effective moment takes place when Finn witnesses her talking to the mirror on the wall and it’s just her in a room by herself, suggesting there’s something more to her disturbed psychosis. And Hemsworth, for playing such an archetypal role, gives the Huntsman dimension and poignancy. He’s not just some guy with muscles.
At the risk of sounding harsh, one of the movie’s handicaps is Kristen Stewart. Granted, she’s better than I thought she’d be, but I think she’s yet to prove herself a full-fledged actress. Something about her expressions, or lack thereof, and line delivery make her seem wooden and insincere. I have a feeling she was cast primarily because of her ties to the Twilight movies, and the studio knew her inclusion would sell more tickets. She’s serviceable, but I think the role could have been owned by a stronger actress.
Say what you will about Hollywood running out of original ideas, but if there’s one thing Snow White and the Huntsman proves it’s that modern storytellers can still render intelligent, visionary movies from antiquated material, even if it’s been interpreted several times before. Heck, just three months ago, another Snow White adaptation, Mirror Mirror, was released, but it had a goofy, slapstick quality to it. Snow White and the Huntsman is meant to be taken seriously and has been made with great craft and attention to detail. For these and other attributes, it’s solid entertainment we come to respect and admire.