Review: Snow White and The Huntsman

Commercial director Rupert Sanders makes his directorial debut with Snow White & The Huntsman (or SWATH), and there are certain moments in which his flair for visual effects pay off in this gritty take on the classic story. But mostly this movie seems like producer Joe Roth’s baby. Roth has become the go-to guy in Hollywood for fairy tale movies after the billion-dollar success of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland, and he’s got Oz: The Great and Powerful and Maleficent also coming up in the next couple of years. By mixing some of the hottest stars of the moment with expensive-looking effects, Snow White & The Huntsman never quite shakes the feeling that it’s more of a “movie by formula” than a story that truly needs to be told.

I won’t recap the plot, because it’s essentially the Disney version you grew up with but this time Snow White is apparently some sort of Joan of Arc, a 90 pound girl capable of wielding a sword and slaughtering grown men on a battlefield. Riiiiight. There’s a weird unevenness to this film, in which half of it attempts to be a gritty, realistic portrayal of this story (as opposed to Tarsem’s whimsical Mirror, Mirrorthe other Snow White story to hit the big screen in 2012), and the other half wants to be a fantasy film filled with supernatural creatures ala Lord of the Rings. Some elements of each style work OK, but combined, it’s kind of a mess.

The performances are adequate at best, with Kristen Stewart at least putting a bit more life into her role than what I’ve seen of the Twilight franchise (which, granted, isn’t much). I’ve been hearing good things about her work in the upcoming Jack Kerouac adaptation On The Road, but her Snow White is just sort of…there, and Stewart never does anything to embrace the iconic character and really put her stamp on it. Chris Hemsworth is essentially an overblown Han Solo here, which, again, is adequate and nothing more. The dwarfs, played by solid character actors like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, and Nick Frost, are fine but never have much of an impact on the story. Charlize Theron is the only one who does anything interesting, and she ends up devolving into an absurd Nic Cage-level performance, screaming about 80% of her dialogue (most of which involved the most surface level analysis of how men use women as sex objects).

I didn’t actively hate anything about this movie, but even with its fairy tale backbone, there are plenty of cliched and stupid moments. At one point, magic fairy birds lead Snow to a giant white horse that’s just sitting in the forest waiting for her. It doesn’t appear to be a fairy horse, so why was it there, and for how long? When the Queen promises the Huntsman she can resurrect his dead wife if he retrieves the escaped Snow White, her weaselly brother (who is like the mini-boss villain of the movie) mockingly tells the Huntsman that the Queen won’t keep her promise, causing Hemsworth to fly into a bout of rage, kick the brother’s ass, and murder some other random guards. Why would he tell him that? There are countless other examples of questionable writing, and it’s no wonder this script isn’t that great: it started as a class project for the screenwriter when he was in college.

The production design was great, the costumes were well-done, and most of the movie was at least coherent and well-shot. I actually enjoyed the inevitable “trekking through the mountains” montage thanks to some haunting female vocals (cliche, but effective), and there’s a subplot about women in the kingdom who scar themselves to avoid the Queen’s jealousy that was interesting for about half a second. Excessive narration in the beginning of the movie bogs it down, and though a character from that prologue ends up returning to the movie later in the game, not too much happens there, either. It’s pretty clear from the start who the love interest is (hint: it’s in the title), and no amount of uninspiring battle speeches or magic bad guys getting sliced into pieces of black lava rock can make up for what is ultimately a pretty boring movie that’s clearly intended to be thrilling. Until next time…

  • Nick

    In a movie that has dwarfs, trolls, monsters, and a magic mirror that looks like a stunt double from Terminator 2, a girl wielding a sword is somehow not believable to you?

  • Roger

    I call B.S. on you claiming that Snow takes down men. I watched the move and she clearly expresses that she “couldn’t hurt someone like that” and doesnt ever go into intensive combat… Unless you count her getting slapped around at the end. I think they played within the beleivable possiblities of her character. Only thing that caught me was her athleticism after breaking out of the jail she was in for the majority of her life.

  • abc

    I love this site for keeping me so informed, but your reviews are consistently negative. It’s getting very old.

  • Anthony M

    I finished watching SWATH a few hours ago and left with an interesting take regarding the main review as well as the rebuttals: You are somehow all correct. This may seem like the easy answer, but in this case is entirely true.
    In the first 20 minutes of the movie, I found myself marveling at the inconsistent and seemingly pieced-together back story. Then the movie turned into something of an enigma as I found myself getting drawn in, at first by the increased amazing visuals, and later by the strength of the characters’ performances. Let me address my last point briefly. Kristen Stewart is not Cate Blanchett or Judi Dench, and her performance will not have the Academy calling in a few months. Her performance is however, mildly captivating as the movie continues on and the Snow White character becomes more comfortable with herself. In fact, the only performance that seemed to “mail it in” was the actress who portrayed the younger Snow White who occupied the opening moments of the film.
    The action was above average at best, with the battle sequences keeping you engaged, while hoping we forget the “large” armies are mistakenly shown in full view at moments, and look to consist of about 30-40 extras at best. Overall, a very watchable film experience whose visuals might justify use of 3-D more than the cash grab/hatchet job of the last Pirates of the Caribbean film.

  • alex

    “This is not accurate revi
    Charlize Theron is the only one who does anything interesting, and she ends up devolving into an absurd Nic Cage-level performance, screaming about 80% of her dialogue (most of which involved the most surface level analysis of how men use women as sex objects)”

    This isn’t true; it’s a great movie, and everyone should watch it.

  • Thony

    Ben Pearson, Laying all negative comments about the film made you look like a trying hard legit movie critique. sorry, but you are just not.

  • Jack Robert Riordan

    Yeah this was not the greatest thing I have ever seen. I was disappointed, for the most part, all around. Even Charlize Theron let me down. She seemed too desperate for the majority of the film and not at all the strong dominating queen that she should be for at least the beginning portion (before she realizes that Snow White is her undoing). The only performance that I generally liked was that of the young girl that played Snow White…Sam Caflin had his moments, but really I’m just a sucker for good archery fighting (which was excellent). I honestly do not know how they can move forward with a sequel as it is basically going to turn into yet another love triangle between a groomed man, a rough man, and Kristen Stewert….

  • wendy

    This movie is so flawed. Stewart is awful. sure Hollywood could have found a more enduring person for the role.

  • m4show

    Boy this reviewer rubs me the wrong way. As does anyone frankly would chose to knock what is hands down probably the best, darkest, Gothic re-tellings of this timeless fairytale in YEARS! GRIPPING from beginning to end, the acting is solid. The cinematography and visuals are utterly breathtaking! Charlize Theron is mesmerizing as The Evil Queen. And for your edification, the ‘Fairy World exists so the chief protagonists can, for a few exquisite moments anyway, languish in the beauty, and hypnotic splendor of another, ‘lighter’ realm co-existing so near the ‘Dark Forest.’ What’s more, the moment with the allegedly ‘innocuous’ white hoarse exists so the quiet, magical mood can be RIPPED out from under them, AND US by the sudden, abrupt invasion of the Queen’s army! IDIOTS! If you want to bash a movie, why don’t you actually go out and find a WORTHY candidate for your acid tongues. Have your ‘inner children’ been so brutally ass-raped that you are completely incapable of enjoying truly epic, Gothic fantasy? The time, money, effort, and artistic prowess to create something brilliant here is legion, I truly feel heart sick for you nay sayers. Try watching it again, and instead of tearing it apart this time try to enjoy it. For all too soon you will be forced back into your soulless, creative-free “black forest” a realm clearly much darker than anything this movie could ever conjure.

  • Charles T.

    This is both scary and confessional….but I saw SWATH and Prometheus on the same day…and I am telling you that I preferred SWATH. This is not to say that I disagree with any of the criticisms voiced by others of this film or that I somehow am repressing the fact that I sat through a movie with Kristen Stewart – in fact, just typing that makes me feel a little cold. But, people, Prometheus TOTALLY blew…yes?