Thursday, 7 June 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman

Chances are while you were growing up you would have encountered at least one fairy tale, the story of a loveable rogue or dainty princess fighting the evil queens and warlocks who threaten their happily ever after. The thing about fairy tales though, is that once you grow up the fantastical stories start to lose their appeal and the Disney-esque wonderment isn't enough the entertain. Cue 'grown-up' fairytales, films that have gained substantial interest as of late, where a well-loved tale is re-presented in a darker, more pointy package. Cue, this time around, Snow White and the Huntsman.

Snow White and the Huntsman
Rupert Sanders // 2012 // 12A // 127 mins

It's the story you've all heard before. A young princess' father remarries after the death of his beloved Queen, however his new bride turns out to be a nasty piece of work who kills him, claiming the kingdom for herself and keeping the princess locked out of sight. This time around, though, the princess (Kristen Stewart) grows a pair, and after escaping her prison plans to bring down the Queen with brute force.

The film gets off to an extremely promising start, brilliantly balancing the action and exposition, but suffers from the simple fact that it feels a lot longer than it actually is, a worry when the runtime already clocks in at an arse-aching 2 hours 7 minutes. Similarly, despite an impressive cast, few of the performances prove to be anything spectacular, Charlize Theron as Ravenna the Queen being the primary exception. Simply put, Theron is electric. She portrays the wickedness, tragedy, and all-round bat-shit craziness of her character with true conviction, and succeeds in creating a wicked queen to truly rival the best of them. Chris Hemsworth as the titular Huntsman is also worthy of note, bringing emotional depth to an often cookie cutter role, in spite of a shaky Scottish accent. Unfortunately this is where the good performances cease, as K-Stew does nothing to prove she actually possesses facial muscles and Sam Claflin struggles to bring an ounce of personality to Snow's childhood sweetheart.

Word is director Rupert Sanders got the job, his directorial debut, on the strength of his art direction and it's clear that the visuals are where the film excels itself. From a milk-soaked Theron to a liquid gold mirror-man the film is full of set pieces which display stunning images sure to stick in your mind for a long time to come. The dark forest, while beautifully rendered, does establish a rather frustrating tendency, that everything within this world seems capable of transforming into something else. The result of this is that one particular sequence in which Ravenna swishes into a flock of circling, wait for it ...ravens, loses any impact and simply places her next on the list of morphing entities within the kingdom.

You'd be forgiven for assuming that, given the title, the infamous seven dwarves are absent from this re-telling. Sure enough the gang, plus one more for good measure, do show up as part of one of many sequences where Snow discovers the numerous areas of the kingdom. They provide some mildly amusing jokes but do absolutely nothing to aid the fact that the dwarves are only ever seen as a comic interlude to the narrative. It also bears the question of whether the decision to use average sized actors, Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan etc., and shorten them through camera work and digital effects was a good one, as none bring strong enough performances to warrant the exclusion of genuine little people.

The main problem with Snow White and the Huntsman is that the narrative tries to bring together far too many elements for its length. Resulting in solid and interesting concepts, such as the colony of scarred women or the beautiful 'sanctuary', receiving nowhere near the attention or depth they require and deserve. The scale of the narrative that has been produced here is admirable, but something that would surely have benefitted from a TV mini-series format similar to that of Tin Man or Alice. Either that, or centering the story on the films strongest role and performance, Ravenna.

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