This adaptation of Snow White -- the second to hit theaters this year -- screened after press deadlines. Turns out, it ain't no Mirror Mirror. Thank God.
WW Critics Grade: A-
Snow White and the Huntsman is beautifully, blessedly graphic.
It goes far beyond threats of dismemberment and filicide. There's the dark forest, which provides Snow White (Kristen Stewart) with questionable sanctuary but plays out like an LSD-laced fever dream, populated by banshee marsh creatures and every infestation imaginable. There's the nomadic tribe of women who scar their own to spare them from the queen's appetite for youth. And, of course, there's the Queen (Charlize Theron) and her method for keeping things tight, which is a little bit bloody Countess Bathory, a little bit #The Leech Woman#. After eating the hearts of sparrows like bonbons and sucking the life breath out of younger subjects, she finds out—thanks to the molten man in the mirror—that her stepdaughter's heart is her own personal panacea.
Theron, with her constant facial cracks and rejuvenation, fits of rage and bipolar lapses into quiet, pull much of the film's focus. She undoubtedly has more charisma than her on-screen stepdaughter, though let it be known that Stewart does, uncharacteristically, show signs of life here. In this version, the Queen gets to steal Snow White's origin story, too: "Skin as white as snow, lips the color of blood" is no longer a morose nursery rhyme created on the fly by the princess's doomed mother. Instead, it is a rather inappropriate spell forced on Queen Ravenna at a young age, by quite possibly the world's first documented stage mom.
As the title suggests, there is a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth). Bucking tradition, he doesn't fall for Snow White and let her escape. He realizes he's been royally screwed by the Queen, and refuses to honor a faulty contract. Necessity and a boozy sense of duty compel him to escort the princess to safety and ultimately to the Seven Dwarves, in what is arguably the most enchanting segment of the film. After ten minutes of identifying the troupe of merry miners as "the Ian McShane dwarf" or "the Ray Winstone dwarf" or "the Bob Hoskins dwarf," I marveled at the use of prosthetics and perspective, as well as some savvy cameo-casting—it really is them, plus Nick Frost.
This is also the Snow White revision that feared going the way of Moonlighting. It hints at romantic attachments, but shirks from giving the assumed Prince Charming much screen time, which is fortunate, as Sam Claflin is not the most compelling love interest. The restorative power of love is touched on but co-opted by deft military strategy and Stewart in full armor. It's unfortunate that soldier Stewart was made to be so much the focus of the film and its marketing. While it's a great message for young girls to be proactive, another scene of Theron wining and dining on the blood of the innocent might have made for more compelling cinema.