Whose the Fairest?
RATED: ★ ★ ★ 1/2 buckets | Matinee or BluRay
Rated: PG-13 Intense sequences of action, brief sensuality and intense sequences of violence
Release Date: June 1, 2012
Runtime: 2 hrs 7 mins
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writers: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, Hossein Amini
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sam Claflin, Sam Spruell, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson
SYNOPSIS: When the Huntsman is ordered by the Evil Queen to assassinate Snow White in the Dark Forest, he winds up becoming her protector and mentor in an attempt to defeat the powerful Queen.
REVIEW: DGA Award nominated commercial director Rupert Sanders moves up in class as he takes on the role of helmsman of a fairy tale that has been immortalized by Disney and many others in lesser degree. This more fierce incarnation of the raven haired and ruby lipped damsel is put to paper by Rusty Forkblades writer/director Evan Daugherty, The Blind Side writer/director John Lee Hancock, and the 2011 Drive writer Hossein Amini. With both fresh eyes and veteran experience, audiences may find that they have never seen Snow White quite like this.
When the queen finds a rose blooming in the middle of a glossy snowy garden, its thorns prick her finger and sends three drops of blood into the snow. She wishes for a daughter with raven hair, lips as red as the blood, skin as white as the snow, and a strength within her as strong as the rose in the winter garden. Months later, she has a baby girl and names her Snow White (Kristen Stewart, The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 1). Snow becomes beloved by the kingdom as she grows up, the apple of her parent's eyes. When the queen falls ill and dies, the king falls into sorrow. When a dark army threatens his lands, the king rides into battle and rescues a golden haired prisoner named Ravenna (Charlize Theron, Young Adult).
Happy for the first time in a long time, the king makes Ravenna his wife. Queen Ravenna quickly betrays her king and takes over the kingdom. She lets her own armies onto the grounds with her brother Finn (Sam Spruell, The Hurt Locker). Ravenna locks Snow in the North tower of the castle until she comes of age and the Queen's magic mirror warns the Queen that Snow could be a grave threat or grant her eternal youth and beauty. Snow escapes to the Dark Forest. Enraged, Ravenna employs the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, The Avengers) to track her down and bring her to the throne. A change of heart leads the Huntsman to find and protect Snow White, leading them deeper into the Dark Forest to encounter other magical creatures, reunite with old friend William (Sam Claflin, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), and making new acquaintances in the form of dwarfs named Beith (Ian McShane, Deadwood), Muir (Bob Hoskins, Doomsday), Gort (Ray Winstone, Hugo), Nion (Nick Frost, Hot Fuzz), Duir (Eddie Marsan, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows), Coll (Toby James, The Hunger Games), Quert (Johnny Harris, Atonement), and Gus (Brian Gleeson, The Eagle).
As with many movies that are churned out by the big studios, there are many times a race to see what version of a property is released first and to more acclaim. 1998 had its looming meteoric threats with the action-packed Armageddon versus the deeper thinkingDeep Impact. 2006 had the magic, illusions and a peek behind the mystical veil of both Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale's The Prestige versus Edward Norton's The Illusionist. And in early 1997, audiences felt the heat with both Dante's Peak and Volcano. I could go on. Here we are in 2012 with two stories of Snow White. Relativity Media distributed earlier this year with Julia Roberts and her more whimsical take of the Grimm's evil queen and the princess-turned-warrior. Now Universal Pictures and Roth Films bring forth an epic and stylistic version of the same tale with Snow White and the Huntsman. Which quest will succeed?
Director Rupert Sanders creates a world of dark enchantment with Snow White and the Huntsman. Both dark and beautiful, Sanders takes the sensibilities of the Lord of the Ringtrilogy while still honoring earlier cartoon works of Walt Disney. Once Queen Ravenna wrests control of the kingdom from the fallen king the land falls into rotting ruins, the maintenance of her beauty reflected in the muddy spartan countryside that surrounds her castle.
Her wardrobe is filled with sharp iron and flowing malice. Farther away from the center of Ravenna's reign the Dark Forest simmers and roils with menace, largely due to hallucinogenic spores that turn every rock into a spectral nightmare. Once past the borders of the forest, the lands turn lush again as one enters the lands of the fairies. With genteel animals and lazily floating nature, one can see in live action what Disney's Snow White portrayed in its colorful version. Throughout, numerous aerial pans show various craggy and rolling hills similar to LOTR.
Charlize Theron is both wonderfully complex and evil in her work as the Queen Ravenna, complete with her own childhood back story that makes her evil demeanor just a touch more sympathetic. She exudes an beautifully sculpted icy exterior with an addiction for power and a flawless youth. Chris Hemsworth, darkening his locks, covering his solid frame in a different type of leather, and taking on a more profound Irish accent, works hard and succeeds as the tortured warrior widower desperate to reconnect with his late wife in some small measure.
Only a stray 'Hey' and 'Okay' take his dialogue out of the proper century. Kristen Stewart, although not impressive to me in The Twilight Saga until the last installment, shows heart and growth as the princess-turned-warrior. She still seems a little unsure at times, but her Snow comes through as sympathetic heroine and eventual leader. Sanders uses full-sized actors for the roles of the pint-sized dwarfs, including Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, and Nick Frost. Although the long shots may have substituted little people in, all of the actors in close-up provides a different look and feel to the dwarfs, closer to Peter Jackson's method for LOTR than films like Mirror, Mirror orTime Bandits.
Snow White and the Huntsman runs a long 127 minutes The film could have been tightened up a little bit but Sanders presents every scene like a gorgeous rendering, paying the utmost attentions to every wonderful detail. Every shot could be a still for a frame worthy poster. An early shot of Snow White and a white stallion felt for the briefest of moments like it should have been followed by a title for a perfume ad. Even if the action or story slowed, the visuals, the CGI, or the costumes still held me spellbound.
Snow White and the Huntsman is a visual stunner, filled with enough eye-candy to fill a popcorn bucket. Theron entrances with beauty and skill. Hemsworth, Spruell, and Sam Claflin deliver performances as solid as Thor's muscles. And the raven hair and blood red iips of Kristen Stewart give me hope in her still growing ability as an actress. Sanders offers a version of Snow White filled with intrigue, beauty, and inspiration. Whose the fairest of them all? Snow White and the Huntsman is certainly close!
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