Let me clear your conscience right now: Skepticism is a perfectly natural reaction to the phrase “Kristen Stewart Snow White Action Fantasy.”
Even though I found the trailers surprisingly engaging, I still settled into my theater seat with a sense of dread cutting into my genuine anticipation. I was convinced that something would derail this experience for me. In a summer that’s paying early dividends with an amazing Avengers film and a remarkably okay Men In Black sequel, this one seemed certain to be a casualty of averages.
I was wrong. I enjoyed the hell out of this movie.
No, scratch that…I LOVED this movie.
Believe me, I’m as surprised as you are. SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN is visually majestic, with a somber tone and palpable mood in every scene. The effects were surprisingly well-conceived, adding depth and life to the fantastic stage that director Rupert Sanders has constructed for his feature debut. The trailers haven’t really shown you the wealth of visual wonders that are waiting within the forest, and I hope you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was when I glimpsed them for the first time. In a mere two dimensions, no less!
Kristen Stewart’s Snow White is not a headstrong, I-don’t-need-saving heroine; she’s very capable, but she’s also a lost soul who finds herself alone and on the run in a world that has changed, and not for the better, in the years since she was imprisoned by the evil witch who deceived Snow’s father and murdered him in their wedding bed. And oh, what a witch she is! Charlize Theron’s sinister portrayal of the beauty-obsessed Ravenna might seem a bit over-the-top at first, but you realize very quickly that Ravenna is dangerously, desperately insane. She’s not evil for the sake of it; she’s out of her mind, and Theron runs the whole movie at a confident fever pitch.
Chris Hemsworth is the Huntsman, and he proves once again that he’s the guy to watch. His turn as the hero finds him as more of a roughneck Han Solo than a half-cocked Thunder God, and it suits him well. The film thankfully sidesteps a love triangle between the Huntsman and William (Sam Claflin) for the most part; the two men each have a personal stake in Snow’s survival and well-being, but the story never resorts to juvenile chest-beating for the favor of the pretty girl. A pretty girl who, I hasten to add, wears ratty, soiled clothing and has a layer of grime on her throughout 90% of the film. And she should.
Even with all of these pieces of the puzzle fitting together so neatly, I was still worried about the Dwarves. Would they be comic relief? Adorable human Ewoks who serve to remind us all that there is still cuteness in this realm of darkness? What if they go the other way, and give us half-size creeps who drink and belch and say things unbecoming of an Ewok? So many terrible possibilities!
Once again, my expectations were stuffed into a bag and thrown into the creek. If you don’t already know which actors are playing the Dwarves, don’t spoil it for yourself! I didn’t know going in, and I laughed out loud with joyful surprise when the characters made their debut. HUGE talent in these roles, if you’ll pardon the bad joke. In my defense, the film’s script didn’t bother with a barrage of short jokes or height-related gags, so I feel like I’m okay on this one.
This is a movie that has its own set of rules, and it plays by them very efficiently. Will everyone enjoy this movie? I’m not sure. I think you have to give yourself over to the experience. I found it so easy to do that, and I’m really glad I did. There’s a sense that SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN could start a franchise series; if the filmmakers can conjure up this kind of magic on every outing, I’ll be right there to see it.