There’s a fundamental problem with Snow White and the Huntsman that anyone who’s seen the trailer or even heard about the casting is all too aware of. No matter what the film may be called, it’s practically impossible to root for anyone but the evil queen, Ravenna.
It appears that director Rupert Sanders and the three screenwriters it took to rewrite this classic fairytale, (Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini), want us to feel that way. How else would you describe the extensive back-story they’ve given Ravenna – one that makes her out to be a sympathetic villain, simply out to fulfill her destiny? Like the men who succumb to Ravenna’s spell, you fall for Ravenna from the get go. Charlize Theron is completely captivating and deliciously pitch-perfect. Never campy or too over-the-top, she makes even the most cliché dialogue and evil laughs believable. (And she looks flawless in every costume change they give her, PS.) There hasn’t been an on-screen villain this terrifying since The Devil Wears Prada‘s Miranda Priestly, and like Meryl Streep who played her, I wouldn’t be surprised if Theron nabbed an Oscar nod for her work here.
As you may have noticed, however, the film isn’t called “Queen Ravenna.” Which brings us to our supposed heroine, Snow White, who’s … about as interesting as a wet mop. It doesn’t help that she’s played by the ever-bland Kristen Stewart, who spends the majority of the film looking as confused as ever (“Wait, is this the one where I have the vampire baby?”). Stewart’s White is so dull – so utterly boring – that I found myself dream-casting other actresses in the role the entire time she was on screen. Is she really the fairest of them all? Surely there must have been someone prettier – someone more talented. Natalie Portman? Keira Knightley? Felicity Jones? Heck, I’d rather see Kirsten Dunst in this role. Anyone – anyone – would be better.
Stewart’s not fully to blame, of course (although I will throw a lot of shade her way). Show White may be one of the worst written characters of all time. She spends the majority of the movie walking around the woods, following after Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman like a lost puppy. The birds that she sees around the way are more interesting than she is. By the time she finally gets the balls to fight back, you’re so frustrated with her, you’re ready to chomp into a poison apple yourself.
You know, much has been made about Snow White and the Huntsman and its warrior portrayal of Snow White. About how princesses these days can’t just be damsels in distress anymore (we can blame Mulan for that, I suppose). But don’t be fooled by the advertising – Stewart’s White is not a character you’d like to look up to. She makes no decisions for herself unless her life is severely threatened, and even in victory (spoiler alert?), doesn’t say a damn word.
Plus, no matter how tough our Warrior White is supposed to be, she’s still forced to play in to some bullshit love story. Only in this new tale, there’s two possible lovers: the aforementioned Huntsman Hemsworth and someone named William (Sam Claflin), an old childhood friend of Snow’s. (It’s like Peeta and Gale all over again, only who really cares?) One of these gents is the true love whose kiss will wake Snow from her poison apple coma. The other, a nobody. And the final decision on who’s who comes out of left fucking field. (Side note: explain to me why the fuck someone would kiss someone on the mouth when they’re in a coma? It’s hella creepy.) Still, as awkward as they are, both Hemsworth and Claflin do their best with some pretty terribly material, and make for solid eye candy throughout. I kind of wished they’d just quit fighting and start making out. Now that’s a movie I’d see.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the dwarfs. There are eight of them this time, and they’re not given as much to do here as you’d expect. They’re never identified by name (save for one or two of them), and they have practically zero interaction or chemistry with Snow White. At one point, something crucial happens to one of them (who’s name I couldn’t remember if I tried since they only said it once), and Snow’s all upset about it, and you’re just like, “WTF Snow! You don’t even know his name!” It’s like you can hear the screenwriters going, “we need an emotional scene with the dwarfs – let’s throw one in here for no reason.” What a waste.
(I will say this though – it is nice to see Bob Hoskins on screen again. He plays the chief dwarf Muir – or “Doc” as I kept calling him. Who Framed Roger Rabbit is and forever will be “the shit.”)
All this being said, that doesn’t mean that there isn’t fun to be had at Snow White and the Huntsman. The action sequences have a fair amount of bite to them – especially those warriors made of weird black spikes that rejuvenate themselves over and over again (if you’ve seen the trailer, you know what I mean). The cinematography and CGI visuals are pretty cool too, and Ravenna’s costumes are some of the best I’ve ever seen (Oscar nod, for sure). As bad as it was at parts, I found the off-switch on my brain and was somewhat entertained.
Just remember this. No matter how much they change up the story – no matter how many visual elements or wonky English accents they throw in to try and distract you – you know the ending. Snow’s the worst and things aren’t going to end well for Queen Ravenna. And therein lies the problem. It’s a damn shame too, because I would have happily seen a Ravenna sequel. Perhaps a prequel?