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Overall Rating
2.12

Awesome: 4%
Worth A Look: 12%
Average: 0%
Pretty Bad60%
Total Crap: 24%

3 reviews, 7 user ratings


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Snow White and the Huntsman
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by Peter Sobczynski

"Rotten To The Core"
1 stars

Let us say, just for the sake of an argument and as a way of slapping together a relatively painless opening paragraph, that you have been entrusted with producing a mega-expensive film version of the classic fairy tale "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves." Assuming that you don't drift too far into the territory established by Disney in their ground-breaking 1937 animated feature adaptation, the sky is pretty much the limit as to how to approach the material. You could pay homage to its heritage and create a dark and creepy take that accentuates the horrors found in the original tale. You could choose to go in a lighter and more family-friendly manner and include lots of cute animals, gentle slapstick involving the goofy-but-adorable dwarves and romance involving the fair princess, her handsome suitor and the all-important kiss signifying True Love in all its glory. Hell, you could even have her be a figure skater befriended by the Three Stooges and you won't get much of an argument from most people. As long as you hit the expected key points without mucking the rest of it up in the process, you are pretty much home free because if ever there was a story that has proven itself with audiences over the centuries, it is "Snow White."

However, if you have made a movie about Snow White that climaxes with a battle between her and her evil stepmother nemesis--the woman who killed her father, destroyed her kingdom and has been trying to straight-up murder her throughout the story, it stands to reason that most viewers should not find themselves rooting for the evil stepmother to triumph over the ostensible heroine. And yet, that is just what is on display in "Snow White and the Huntsman," an execrable take on the tale that, thanks to a depressing and decidedly unpleasant take on the material and a jaw-dropping bit of miscasting, is a fail of near-mythical proportions. Not only is it not the best film version of "Snow White" to hit the multiplexes in the last three months (that prize goes to last spring's flawed-but-fun "Mirror Mirror"), it doesn't even live up to the not-exactly hallowed standards of the infamous "Snow White and the Three Stooges." Hell, even the utterly unrelated "Monster" comes across like a better adaptation of the material--at the very least, it has more likable characters and a happier ending than this one.

In this grimmer-than-Grimm take on the legend, everything is peaches and cream in the bucolic kingdom lorded over by the benevolent father of the impossibly beautiful--both outside and inside, we are instantly assured--Snow White until her mother suffers the same fate that befalls at least one parent at the beginning of virtually every fairy tale since time immemorial. Disconsolate at his loss, the king has little to live for and one day leads his troops headlong into battle against a mysterious opposing force. This army is defeated handily--if for no other reason than the fact that they appear to be nothing more than easily shattered suits of armor with nothing in them--but the real trouble comes when the king comes across their sole captive, a beautiful young woman named Ravenna (Charlize Theron), and is instantly besotted by her. Alas, thinking with his other sword proves to be his undoing because within the space of 24 hours, Ravenna marries the king, murders him on their wedding night (and no, he does not go with a smile on his face), takes over the entire kingdom and, most tragically of all, imprisons Snow White in one of the towers with no plans to ever set her free. As a result, the once-beautiful land become a dark and oppressive place where all of nature, we learn, has turned upon itself while Ravenna, whom we learn has done this sort of thing many times before in response to a long-ago trauma of her own, spends her days mistreating the remaining populace, sucking out the lifeforce of the young and beautiful and constantly checking her magic mirror for constant assurance that she is still the fairest in all the land. In other words, pretty much the same thing that one can see on a typical day in Hollywood, am I right?

This goes on for several years until Snow (Kristen Stewart) comes of age and the magic mirror informs Ravenna that a.) Snow is now the fairest in the land and b.) she is the only one with the power to bring Ravenna's dark magic to an end. On the bright side, Ravenna can acquire immortality and permanent beauty if she consumes Snow's heart but when she sends her pervy albino brother Finn (Sam Spruell) to bring Snow to him for a light snack, he allows himself to be overcome by a longtime prisoner with zero fighting skills and she escapes the castle into the fearsome dark wood that few have ever made it out of alive. One who has lived to tell the tale is a grieving, drunken lunk known as the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and he stupidly agrees to go after Snow and bring her back to Ravenna but while he tracks her down handily enough, he cannot bring himself to turn her over and instead promises to help her reach a duke in a nearby kingdom who will hopefully help her defeat her stepmother and save the kingdom. Some of what occurs next will not come as a surprise to those familiar with previous versions of the tale--yes, Snow does encounter a collection of height-challenged miners (portrayed by the likes of Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Nick Frost and Ian McShane) and yes, she does have a grim experience with a fateful piece of produce. On the other hand, we are also treated to such sights as Snow demonstrating her heretofore unknown abilities as a Troll Whisperer, a sylvan glen in which faeries ride bunny rabbits and mushroom sport blinking eyes (a terrifying vision that I fear I will never shake for the remainder of my wretched existence) and Snow suddenly pulling together in the last reel in order to lead her troops into battle and engage in a climactic smackdown with her evil stepmom designed that will no doubt inspire some deeply unsavory (though perhaps better written) fan fiction along the lines of that "Fifty Shades of Grey" gibberish.

Clearly inspired by Tim Burton's enormously successful take on "Alice in Wonderland"--right down the climax in which the former meek heroine suddenly dons a form-fitting suit of honor in order to lead her troops into battle a la Joan of Arc--the notion of a revisionist version of the Snow White story makes sense, I suppose. What doesn't make sense, however, is that anyone in authority could have felt for a second that the dark, dreary and generally dismal version presented in "Snow White and the Huntsman" was an even remotely passable spin on the concept. Yes, I know that the filmmakers are trying to achieve a more Gothic-style feel that would stand in contrast to the likes of the infinitely cheerier "Mirror Mirror" and harken back to its generally horrific beginnings. The difference is that when one is reading the original story or having it read to them, they are able to mentally adjust the bleakness quotient so that it is just dark enough for it to be palatable without becoming too unpleasant to behold. In trying to ensure that his version isn't mistaken for any of the previous lighter takes on the material, first-time director Rupert Sanders goes so far into the darkness with brutal battle, endless scenes of people slogging through muck-filled locations in wet and uncomfortable outfits and even a hint of quasi-incestuous business between Ravenna and her brother that there are times when it seems inspired more by "Game of Thrones" than anything else. As a result, the film is way too murky and violent for little kids to be exposed to (at least I like to think that it would be too much for them--who the hell knows for sure these days?) but at the same time, it is too dull and listless for older viewers as well. The entire thing is just one extended bummer and there is never a single moment when it appears that anyone involved with the proceedings was having even the slightest bit of fun--even the lighter scenes have a leaden quality to them that just becomes ponderous after a while. Even taken simply on the level of a visual spectacle, the film comes up short--although there are a couple of arresting images here and there (mostly involving Theron being coated in various types of viscous fluids), there is nothing that come remotely close to challenging the feast of visual delights that Tarsem supplied to viewers in "Mirror Mirror." Frankly, if this film resembles anything at all, it resembles last year's insipid "Red Riding Hood" and at least that has an amusingly overblown turn by Gary Oldman to help move things along slightly.

"Snow White and the Huntsman" also suffers from a series of casting problems that range from the sad sight of talented actors with nothing to do but stand around while wearing silly-looking outfits to one of the most egregiously awful examples of flagrant miscasting to come along in some time. Despite having his character beefed up enough to share the title along with Snow White, Chris Hemsworth is pretty much a washout throughout as the Huntsman and while this film probably won't hurt his current career ascension as the result of his appearances in "The Cabin in the Woods" and "The Avengers," it won't do him many favors either. As for the dwarves, a group of talented actors have been recruited to fill their tiny boots but since they haven't been given much of anything to do, viewers will be too distracted by the visual trickery deployed in order to make them look smaller to even register them as individual characters. However, these mistakes pale in comparison with the outright botch that is the idea of casting Kristen Stewart as Snow White. Forget the painfully obvious fact that she is nowhere near as "fair" as Charlize Theron on her worst day--a fact pointed out by an array of people ranging from Stephen Colbert to my own mother. No, the reason that Stewart fails in the role is that she approaches the part in such a glum, grim manner (by actual count, she offers up a full-on smile only three times during the entire film) that it is impossible to work up even the slightest bit of sympathy for her plight or the slightest bit of enthusiasm when she finally takes charge of her own destiny in the final scenes. And while there are some performers out there who have a look suitable for this kind of fantasy filmmaking, Stewart does not--for most of the film, she resembles nothing so much as Lisa Marie Presley stumbling her way through an extended homage to Steve Perry's immortal video for "Oh Sherrie." Clearly she was cast in the hopes that a good chunk of the "Twilight" fan base would follow her over but based on her performance here, they could have slipped Robert Pattinson into the part instead and he might have come across as a little more convincing than she does.

The only aspect of "Snow White and the Huntsman" that vaguely works is Charlize Theron and that is not just because of how she triumphs throughout in all fairness--oriented categories. It would have been quite easy for her to simply regard the entire thing as high camp and go for broke with an overtly comedic performance in the way that Julia Roberts did in "Mirror Mirror." Instead, she takes the part of Ravenna seriously--perhaps more seriously than anyone else involved with the project--and figures out a way to make her utterly malevolent while still giving her a human dimension that is surprising under the circumstances. Sadly, she isn't on the screen that often but when she is, she so thoroughly dominates the proceedings that I found myself wishing that the entire movie had shifted its focus so that she was the central character and the little simp known as Snow White was relegated to the background for the most part. As it is, however, "Snow White and the Huntsman" is a bummer of a fable that will not leave audiences feeling happily ever after, except in regards to it finally being over.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=22537&reviewer=389
originally posted: 06/01/12 10:53:36
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User Comments

9/25/13 Sidhe Beautiful movie with one horrible flaw. Stewart. (The magic mirror needs an eyecheck!) 4 stars
10/24/12 lee beautiful and epic 5 stars
9/10/12 action movie fan snow white meets lord of the rings could have been alot better 2 stars
6/11/12 KingNeutron I liked it, but it was a trifle long 4 stars
6/04/12 Janine Usually can trust Peter S., but this wasn't bad and Mirror Mirror was NOT better. 4 stars
6/04/12 PAUL SHORTT SLICK AND STYLISH BUT UNDONE BY UNEVEN PERFORMANCES AND POOR PACING 2 stars
6/04/12 Abby Fisher Forgot the script in lieu of cool visuals 2 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  01-Jun-2012 (PG-13)
  DVD: 11-Sep-2012

UK
  N/A

Australia
  01-Jun-2012
  DVD: 11-Sep-2012


Directed by
  Rupert Sanders

Written by
  Evan Daugherty

Cast
  Chris Hemsworth
  Kristen Stewart
  Charlize Theron
  Sam Claflin



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