Snow White and the Huntsman ★★★★

Pretty much all of my knowledge of the story of Snow White comes from the 1937 Disney classic "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs". Consequently, "Snow White and the Huntsman" turned out to be a bit of an eye-opener for me. Screenwriters Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini have constructed a compelling, refreshingly dark, and decidedly more adult version of a well-known fairy tale.

First-time feature-film director Rupert Sanders, who, by the way, clearly has a firm grasp of visual storytelling, allows certain scenes to really breathe. Some may argue that this disrupts the pace of the movie, but I think it works quite well and gives the moments in question more emotional heft. Notice, for example, how, at the end of the climax, the camera lingers on Snow White’s face as she looks into the mirror and the implications of what has just happened dawn on her.

The production design is very stylish and fairly impressive. Greig Fraser’s atmospheric cinematography, the first-rate special effects, the excellent set design, and the handsome costumes give "Snow White and the Huntsman" the feel of a fantasy epic. I was not expecting to find that quality in the film, so I must say it surprised me positively in that regard. Deserving a special mention, the Sanctuary sequence may be the single most memorable part of the proceedings; it offers a striking visualization of harmonious peace and ends on a starkly contrasting note.

While the action scenes are skillfully staged and executed, some of them fail to be genuinely exciting. If only those scenes had not felt perfunctory, they might have been another ace up the movie’s sleeve.

In the role of Snow White, Kristen Stewart shows that she is a better actress than her work in the "Twilight Saga" movies lets on; here, she appears to be more confident and displays a wider range of emotions. Chris Hemsworth does a solid turn as the Huntsman, sufficiently charming in a low-key way; however, there is virtually no romantic chemistry whatsoever between Stewart and him. Charlize Theron is simply marvelous in the role of Ravenna, exuding malice most of the time and occasionally evoking pity from the viewer. Thanks to seamless digital effects, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, and Brian Gleeson play the dwarves (that’s right, there are eight of them, not seven, in this retelling).