From first-time director Rupert Sanders comes Snow White and the Huntsman, a dark, CGI-filled fairy-tale update which verges on being an action blockbuster. Starring Twilight’s Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth (AKA Thor) and the Oscar-winning Charlize Theron, the film is a rip-roaring tale of war and magic – with just a tiny bit of romance thrown in.
In this glossy, upscale version of the classic fairytale, Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is a beautiful princess who has been imprisoned for most of her life by her evil stepmother, an immortal witch named Ravenna (Charlize Theron). After marrying and then murdering the King, Ravenna has taken over the castle and the surrounding country, turning it into a desolate wasteland. She replenishes her power and beauty by draining the youthfulness from young women she captures.
One day, her magic mirror tells her that her reign of terror can only be brought to an end by someone more beautiful than she is – and the only person in the world more beautiful than Ravenna happens to be Snow White. Planning to absorb her youth and beauty, Ravenna asks for Snow White to be brought to her, but the young princess promptly escapes. Snow White finds herself lost in the Dark Forest, a terrifying place where her own fears are used against her. Furious that the princess has escaped, Ravenna orders the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down, but instead of returning her to the hated Queen, the Huntsman joins forces with Snow White in the hope that she will be able to bring an end to the darkness.
Probably the best thing about Snow White and the Huntsman is the use of CGI. The dark armies of the evil queen (soldiers who appear to be made up of shining shards of black glass) are particularly good, but the real star of the CGI show is the forest itself. When she first escapes from the castle, Snow White is immersed in a murky world of sticky swamps and twisted trees. After accidentally inhaling spores from some dangerous-looking mushrooms, she hallucinates all manner of dark creatures in a wonderfully creepy and original take on the Dark Forest scene from Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937), which terrified us all as children.
Unfortunately for them, the real flesh-and-blood actors are a little upstaged by their surroundings. Stewart, Hemsworth and Theron give the British accents and the medieval-style gravitas a valiant try, but they are hampered by a badly written script with little depth, as well as some outright clangers (when the Huntsman asks Snow White if she is ‘okay’, it sticks out like a sore thumb).
Some respite comes in the form of the dwarves, who are played by a host of instantly recognisable Brits, including Ray Winstone, Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Toby Jones and the brilliant Bob Hoskins. However, they suffer the same fate as the dwarves in almost all other Snow White adaptations, in that it falls upon them to supply the comic relief which, in a script this shallow, somewhat takes away from the already depleted stock of drama.
Snow White and the Huntsman is an entertaining and visually spectacular re-imagining of a favourite childhood tale. Although held back by some lacklustre acting and an uninspiring script, it’s worth a watch even if only to gawk at the stunning scenery.
Best performance: Charlize Theron
Best line: ‘Do you hear that? It’s the sound of battles fought and lives lost. It once pained me to know that I am the cause of such despair. But now their cries give me strength’.- Ravenna
Best scene: Snow White hallucinates in the Dark Forest