‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ is edgy but fragmented
Published: Monday, June 4, 2012
Updated: Monday, June 4, 2012 02:06
Commercial director Rupert Sanders’ big-screen directorial debut is a surreal rehashing of the Grimm Brothers’ classic tale, with its eerie imagery,expert character development, and underlying feminism. “Snow White and the Huntsman” frightens and hypnotizes its audience with stunning cinematography but gets pulled down by the weight of fragmentation between scenes.
The film starts off in a manner similar to the original tale: the queen prays for a daughter with “skin white as snow” and is answered with the birth of the darling Snow White.
The queen dies a few years later, and the king marries Ravenna (Charlize Theron) after defeating her army of phantoms and mistaking her for a prisoner. Ravenna murders the king and takes over his kingdom, exiling Snow White to a secluded tower of the castle.
Snow White (Kristen Stewart)escapes when she comes of age, and she runs into the Dark Forest. Ravenna, who retains her beauty by stealing youth from young girls, needs Snow White’s heart to gain immortality. She sends out a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to search for Snow White and bring her back.
The hinting of feminist ideals is less than subtle in Sanders’ rendition of the classic. While the original tale and its Disney version both portray Snow White as innocent and helpless, Sanders’ Snow White comes across as shrewd and independent in the first half of the film, then transforms into a passionate Joan of Arc-like character as she leads an army of men into battle against Ravenna. While Kristen Stewart is somewhat limited in her acting skills, her surliness transfers well, convincing the audience of Snow White’s stoic nature.
The Oscar-winning Theron overpowers the rest of the cast with her presence and acting skills, which are terrifying as well as awe-inspiring. Most of the film’s fantastical features and special effects revolve around her as she communicates with a melting golden mirror, feasts on the hearts of young birds and, at one point, emerges from an oil slick surrounded by ravens. Her backstory creates a rounded character who has been used by fickle men and whose mother cursed her to depend on her beauty.
What the film does lack, though, is seamlessness. Certain scenes seem to appear out of nowhere. Once, it abruptly cuts to a scene showing an area that the audience has never seen before. Snow White says, “It’s as if nothing’s changed here.” Since that setting does not appear prior, the audience is left slightly confused by Snow White’s nostalgic comment.
Certain parts of the film tease the viewers but never get fleshed out: a love triangle that seems out of place, a glossed-over story of the dwarves and the Huntsman’s unconvincing motivation. Perhaps Sanders and the writing team were aiming for dramatic ambiguity, but it prevents viewers from feeling invested in the characters. Overall, the movie is dazzling in its darkness and aesthetic sensibilities. It astonishes its audience with a gloomy medieval backdrop and cruel iciness. There is some excellent acting contained within the film, and viewed from a purely visual point of view,“Snow White and the Huntsman” is extremely ambitious in its artistic endeavors.