Watched Jun 01, 2012
As stunning-but-lifeless as the corpse of a pageant queen, SW&TH attempts to add some edge to a classic fairy tale. Unfortunately, everyone involved in the creation of the film seemed to mistake sex and violence for maturity, and even in doing so wholeheartedly failed at one half of that equation, creating a relatively sexless (but fun) fantasy romp.
The idea of turning Snow White into a low fantasy seems to make sense, what with the world currently in the thrall of George RR Martin's sprawling dark age fantasy A SONG OF ICE AND FIRE. HUNTSMAN manages to ape some of the best fantasy franchises, including the aforementioned, LORD OF THE RINGS and CHRONICLES OF NARNIA. However well it manages to copy these works, the visual nods only remind you that you're essentially watching a copy of a copy. The film also obviously draws some visual and story cues from the Walt Disney classic, but seemingly only nods to them to remind you that this ain't your grandpa's fairy tale.
Adapting a classic story that is relatively lean on plot (even the original fairy tale didn't have much to it) into a two-hour fantasy adventure is by no means an easy task, but the writer's do their best.
When the film strays from classic plot points, whether it is just to twist the old tropes (the meeting with the dwarves is surprisingly dark, seemingly taking nods from Bill Willingham's FABLES) or going into original territory the movie seems to pop a lot more, no longer bogged down by scenes and sequences we know too well.
But when it has to hit on those classic moments the viewer becomes all too aware of what we're watching and the script falls flat. Even with the Evil Queen given a rather tragic backstory that makes her seem less evil and more out for survival, her correspondence with the Magic Mirror and groaning over not being the "fairest of them all" comes off as extremely petty and really could have been done away with. And the classic true love's kiss gets twisted in a way obvious to anyone who had watched ENCHANTED but seemingly comes up for no reason besides it being a part of the fable and to give Snow White the Joan Of Arc-meets-Jesus Christ push she needs to lead an army.
The actors try and do the best with the rather bog-standard fantasy script they're given. Chris Hemsworth is especially a standout as the Hunstman, seeing as his character has the least to draw from and as such had a lot more room for development. The Seven Dwarves were rather interesting, even if the idea of Ian McShane's head CGI'd on a little person's body is rather putting.
I felt bad for Charlize Theron, seeing as the script mostly asked her to glower into the camera and rapidly age, but she did the few lines she had justice. And Kristen Stewart, who has gotten rather good at playing ciphers and Mary Sues, tried her damnedest to lend some gravitas and power to one of the shittiest action speeches ever.
The biggest detraction from this film's acting pedigree is its version of Prince Charming, William. Sam Claflin had absolutely no charisma for a role that is supposed to be, ya know, charming. I would have rather they had gotten someone like James Marsden or Armie Hammer, both incredibly obvious choices but guys that can actually FUCKING BE CHARMING.
If you enjoy mid-tier fantasy movies as much as I do you definitely might appreciate this film, just don't go in expecting anything on the level of LORD OF THE RINGS. Definitely not as bad as any of the Walden Lake NARNIA adaptations, and hopefully won't suffer the same fate as THE GOLDEN COMPASS.