Snow White And The Huntsman Review
It’s far from uncommon for Hollywood to become like the London bus cliché, with two or more thematically similar films released within a short space of time. 1998 became the year of the apocalypse with two heavy hitters in the form of Deep Impact and Armageddon, and now 2012 is set to be the year of the fairy tale with the arrival of Snow White And The Huntsman following just two months after Tarsem Singh’s Mirror Mirror. That’s about where the similarities end though as while Singh’s take on Grimm’s Snow White was all fluffy and light, Rupert Sanders’ take is all grit and dark… or at least it wants to be. Instead what we’re left with is a film that’s so shorn of its edge that the most unsettling aspect is when Kristen Stewart grimaces her way through a Braveheart-esque – in style only, not impact – troop-rallying speech. In fairness, Stewart isn’t awful as the titular heroine; she’s just wholly bland, much like the rest of the elements that have gone into the sorry cinematic mess that is Snow White And The Huntsman.
Because anyone expecting an action-packed fantasy epic teased by the trailers had better look elsewhere. What action there is, is either over almost as soon as it begins, or is shot in the kinetic, fast-editing style that makes it difficult to make out much of what goes on in the teen-friendly bloodless battles. Instead we’re left in the company of Stewart’s Snow White and Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman, sporting a Scottish accent – no idea why – which, thankfully, he often forgets, as they attempt to escape the evil Queen Ravenna’s (Charlize Theron) clutches and eventually overthrow her. It all ends up as a tedious road movie spent in the company of a chemistry-less and, oddly in Hemsworth’s case, charisma-free pairing that we’re supposed to root for, but end up wishing Ravenna would come along and put us all out of our misery. Only Theron seems to know what kind of film she’s stumbled into as she fabulously chews the scenery for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but is mistakenly cast aside for 30-second cameos after the first half-hour until the climax.
It’s not helped by the fact that, impressively scaled sets and outlandish costumes aside, it’s all fairly dull to look at with dark and foreboding mistaken for a mixture of blacks and greys. What little imaginative flourishes there are – the Queen’s fake army made up of black glass shards in particular – aren’t enough to retain the attention, not helped by some decidedly average special effects, often a big budget epic’s saviour. They aren’t terrible, although one aging effect is a bit plasticky, but just aren’t that exciting; for instance, Troll Hunter delivered magnificent beasts on a pinch of what this film was made for, yet this film’s troll is insipid, with little personality. One shining light is the superbly realised dwarves but it seems that if the effects don’t mess it up, the script will, as an excellent cast – including Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone – are completely wasted and left with nothing but almost-juvenile humour to deal with, an uneasy fit in a film where every other aspect strains to be dark.
The most frustrating thing about Snow White And The Huntsman is that it’s not as if the potential wasn’t there. Grimm’s fairytales aren’t exactly wanting in a twisted streak, but instead of subverting the audience’s expectations and developing some truly left-field plot beats, the film trudges on to its utterly predictable climax hitting all the well-known conventions along the way, seemingly as if three screenwriters had a fairy tale check list in front of them; perhaps most damningly, even ABC’s Once Upon A Time offers a more subversive and imaginative take on Grimm’s fairy tale. It’s not too far to state that the film’s only real highlight is the Florence & The Machine track that opens the credits, not just because it signals the end but because it delivers more delicious darkness in its three minutes than the entire two hours that precede it. Snow White And The Huntsman is an early contender for the summer’s worst blockbuster, if not one of 2012’s worst offerings altogether, and don’t even get us started on the moment where Snow White shouts down a troll…