Sunday, June 3, 2012

Snow White and The Huntsman

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth (127 min.)

Snow White and The Huntsman is a roller coaster ride of good ideas, wonderful visuals, sharp individual scenes, but a great deal of poor execution.  It might be considered a fresh take on the story of Snow White, but in reality this is the original story before Walt Disney shaped it into a cartoon classic.  Snow White and The Huntsman is a dark and brooding film, aggressive and energetic, loaded with fantasy, but too soggy too early.  The cast does what it can, and not all is lost thanks to them.  But I saw a good film here, amongst the bloat and the uncertainty of a new director, but for me things didn't quite come together.  Close, but no cigar.  Well, maybe a small cigar, thanks to the actors involved.

Kristen Stewart, working her way out of the shadows of Edward and the Twilight universe, plays the fair maiden with blood-red lips, pale skin and hair as black as night.  As a young child however, Snow White is captured by the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron, embellishing), an obsessive narcissist who kills Snow White's father and spends her days absorbing the hearts, or maybe the souls (one of the vague elements of this world) of the beautiful women in the land in order to keep her own youth.  Ravenna consults the "Mirror Mirror on The Wall" to be certain she is the most beautiful of all.  The mirror itself has a new twist to it as it materializes into a liquid, golden cloak standing in front of Ravenna.  The answer is always the same, it is the queen who is the most beautiful.  But one day, once Snow White (being held captive in the ominous North Tower) comes of age, the mirror tells Ravenna Snow White is now the fairest.  This, of course, will not stand.  Ravenna sends her wicked brother and his absurd haircut to get Snow White.  But she escapes and flees into the vaguely-named "Dark Forest."

Not anyone can hunt her through the Dark Forest, a foreboding and aggressive land of death and danger, so Ravenna sends for The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, quickly becoming a favorite of mine), an expert on the region who spends most of his days drinking and getting into bar fights, to hunt her down and bring her in.  I won't go into the rest of the story details, as you can probably guess the arc of the story.  The opening scenes of Snow White and The Huntsman seem rushed , choppy, unexplained, almost upending the story before it starts.  Great visuals cannot deflect attention from a thin screenplay and clumsy edits.  It's as if director Rupert Sanders was in a hurry to get to the second half of the film, because once we meet the dwarfs everything seems to settle down and the film gets better almost instantly.

Yes, there are dwarfs here as well, eight of them, but there is no Sneezy or Grumpy or Doc.  These are rough and tumlbe drawves played by regular-sized actors like Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, and Bob Hoskins among other famous faces.  The CGI for the dwarfs is seamless, and their characters inject instant life into the film.  A visit to their land is a journey to familiar fairy-tale territory, but it is a relief to see colors and sunlight where all of the early scenes are bleak and drab.  Everything leads to the inevitable clash between Snow White and Ravenna, and thankfully Sanders finds the right tone in time before the movie melts away.

Stewart is fine as Snow White.  She gets more to do for a change, and I root for her to break out of her Twilight phase and into meatier roles.  She embraces the hero and appears to enjoy swinging a sword and raising her voice.  Theron is having a lot of fun as Ravenna, the heftiest of the three leads.  And Hemsworth is, as usual, all charm as The Huntsman.  The three central performances keep the picture afloat through a shaky first half.  Cool visuals are thrown out and unexplained, like the strange milk bath Ravenna takes.  And her powers seem written in on the fly without any real rules.  Finally, ideas come together and the film is much more entertaining.  It's just too bad to think what an entire film could have been.