“When Bella met Thor”- A Review of “Snow White and the Huntsman” (2012)

**WARNING: INCLUDES SPOILERS**
A new breed of Hollywood blockbusters has begun in the shape of the re-imaginings of fairy-tales, so move over vampires! This year so far has seen two very different approaches to the classic Grimm fairytale of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves”; first there was the light-hearted “Mirror Mirror” (2012) starring Julia Roberts as the Wicked Queen and then came the film that will be focused on in this review “Snow White and the Huntsman” (2012); the main similarity between the two is the heavy marketing of the Queen character as the main attraction. “Snow White and the Huntsman” offers a darker approach to the classic fairytale, returning to its origins of Grimm rather than the family friendly image that “Snow White” mainly has in popular culture due to Disney incorporating a medieval style.
 

Charlize Theron gives a  phenomenal  performance as the evil Queen. Her presence is constantly unsettling with her stony stares and her temperamental nature, creating a sinister edge and constant tension throughout the film. The film does put an interesting spin on the character, paying reference to the legend of Mrs Bathory with the notion of her draining the life from the young in order to preserve herself. The visual effects which compliment her fantastic performance are outstanding, her transformation from beautiful young Queen to evil old hag as well as the scenes where she disguises herself as a flock of birds.

“Snow White and the Huntsman” is a pure Hollywood product which sets out to meet a certain structure and fills particular clichés. Firstly the casting, the producers of this film  placed Kristen Stewart in the lead role, she is well known for her  immensely popular role as Bella Swan in the “Twilight” franchise (2008-present) . The performance she gives is bland and expressionless as once more she is typecast into a role where she is constantly reliant on a man to save her! The arc they give her from the weak and helpless princess to a strong warrior Queen is therefore unconvincing by the film’s closure. It also created problems for the feminist angle the film was trying so hard to convey. Chris Hemsworth of “Avengers”  (2012) fame plays the Huntsman, a character who only plays a minor part in the original story, he does his job of setting Snow White free and the story moves on without him, however in this re-telling he is transformed into the romantic lead and main protector of the “beautiful princess”. Stewart and Hemsworth together have very little screen chemistry, resulting in a forced and tedious sub-plot for the film that drags it down, it removes the potential it has in terms of a strong story and performances complimenting the visuals. Hollywood have basically said “Let’s take two of the biggest stars of the moment from two of the biggest film franchises and just place them in a movie together and just go with it”, but that’s Hollywood and they know how they are going to market their films and what will pull in the box office figures! To a large degree the film does feel like a vehicle for these two stars.

It was clear that to an extent they were attempting to replicate “Twilight” by placing in a love triangle sub-plot between the Huntsman and William, Snow White’s childhood friend. A similar plot-line can also be found in “The Hunger Games” (2012) series which is again a huge Hollywood blockbuster at the moment. In the sequence where Snow White, the Huntsman and the Dwarves enter the Sanctuary, even though it is visually beautiful, it seemed in place to replicate the similar style of the beautiful world seen in “Avatar” (2009). Critics have also drawn comparisons with the “Narnia” films (2005-present). The need to add in popular cliché’s to a re-imagining of a well-known story seemed unneeded and there for the sake of being there as it attempted to live up to all the major blockbusters out there.

That said, its certainly not an awful film. The Cinematography is beautiful, the use of colours in the film are really profound such as the red blood dripping onto white snow. Its definitely appealing to look at and its clear that so much thought and detail has evidently gone into the mise-en-scene, costumes and the colouring. The forest sequence is eerie and haunting with the notion of trees coming to life! In terms of the performances the saving grace of the film comes in the shape of the Dwarves, who lighten the dark tone to a degree. The casting for the characters are fantastic including Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins and Brian Gleeson. Each of them showcase an individual personality and bounce well off each other in terms of humor and wit! They couldn’t have come into the film sooner! Seeing these actors in the shape of Dwarves again demonstrates how spectacular the effects are. The battle scenes are also epic and rank up the tension during the films final moments as they go all out with the CGI. There was also a clever and unexpected twist thrown in when Snow White inevitably takes a bite out of that poisonous apple!

Despite the disappointing areas of the film such as the story, “Snow White and the Huntsman” is definitely worth a watch as its a medieval tale of epic proportions. I will be curious to see “Jack the Giant Killer” (2012) and eventually “Maleficent” (2014) and everything else that emerges from the genre. As long as Hollywood can keep fairy-tales fresh then keep em’ coming!

Hayley Alice Roberts.

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