2012 has seen two rivalling ‘Snow White’ films released into the cinemas. The first, ‘Mirror Mirror’ a light-hearted child-friendly romp, with colourful characters, a certain air of campness and non-offensive to every viewer. Now, with the release of the second picture of the year, comes a distictly different beast. ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, comes packed with the finest CGI around, creating ‘Lord of the Rings’-style, epic battlegrounds and with two of the youngest, stars of two of Hollywood’s current biggest franchises and an impressive supporting cast, ‘Huntsman’, looks to change the way we think of the traditional fairytale in a massive way. And it just about manages it.
The story is as you know it, the traditional fairytale but with a few subtle twists and genre subversions that establish it as a solid, if not quite spectacular blockbuster. It has a wide ranging appeal, to women of all ages (one strong female role in a film nowadays is rare, but two is nothing short of gold dust!), men, with the action filled scenes delivering and providing fine moments.
In reference to the star-studded cast, we only have Oscar-winner Charlize Theron chewing up the scenery as the vicious evil Queen Ravenna, in a role she clearly relishes.’Twilight’s perennial moaner Kristen Stewart, as ‘Snow’ herself, and it pains me to say it but she is beginning to turn me around, with regards to her acting ability, as I see her post-‘Twilight’, but it wouldn’t hurt to see a bit more emotion from her at times! Fresh off the back-to-back success of the all-conquering ‘Marvel’s Avengers Assemble’, and horror flick ‘Cabin in the Woods’, Chris Hemsworth as the titular ‘Huntsman’, who shows he can be more than just a Nordic god, but will look to escape an action role for his next film, in an attempt to avoid being typecast as purely an action guy. Then we have a succession of familiar British faces as the seven Dwarves, Nick Frost and Ray Winstone among them, just half of our heroine’s ‘helpers’. They are hilarious and in stark contrast, to the rest of the film’s tone, one of serious, cold-hearted action, they enlighten the audience with laugh after laugh in short succession, a comedy spin-off for the Dwarves in the future?!
The best thing about ‘Huntsman’, is the visuals. The landscapes divulged by first-time British director Rupert Sanders are wonderfully diverse and will certainly provoke a reaction from any audience. It is a testament to Sanders that he’s grafted such environments, taking full advantage of the source text. His past as a commercial director, will have helped of course, as he has created epic battle-based ads for the hugely popular ‘Halo’ series in the past. The dank dark kingdom Theron’s Queen has enforced is illustrated through creepy tree structures, setting the mood perfectly. But it is really as the film progresses and landscapes become colourful, visual delights that the narrative becomes more interesting and the movie itself picks up its initial lagging pace.
What the director isn’t too brilliant at, is sharing out the screen time of the pretty big cast. The Dwarves enter the fray too late in my opinion, at just over an hour into the film, when really we could’ve done with the mood lift a few scenes before. For a period at the halfway mark, we also lose sight of the evil Queen for a good 15-20 minutes, which doesn’t sound like an issue, but I felt it showed Snow White wasn’t in as much danger as we quite thought. At times, the story goes rearing off into all directions, but the clear narrative strand remains throughout, ensuring only the dimmest of audiences won’t understand the ensuing action on-screen.
The conclusion, whilst it is satisfying, although highlights an issue: the fact that the Queen and Snow, rarely come into proper contact with one another. These confrontations would’ve been nicer to see rather than the Queen get her brother and minions to do her dirty work for the majority of the film. However, the action scenes were excellent. The last half an hour or so are brilliant film-making, allowing the director’s creativity to come to a head, and our favourites the Dwarves to get involved too!
Whilst it may not feel like it at times, it does have heavily paced moments, unusual for the mainstream summer blockbuster that is, but ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, is, if not fun, a great piece of film-making, that with a bit more of the Dwarves and the humour they brought to the table, would’ve been not far off perfect.