The publicity screamed ‘this is Snow White as you’ve never seen it before”. Which would have been exciting had Mirror Mirror not claimed exactly the same thing two months previously. Two Snow White films in one year does seem excessive, but Snow White and the Huntsman is, at least, the fairest of them all. Is that due to its own merit or its predecessor’s stunning mediocrity? Well, a bit of both, really.
There were grumbles aplenty about the casting of Kristen Stewart as Snow White, and her performance won’t exactly placate the doubters. It’s not that Stewart is a bad actress exactly- she was passable in Twilight, and really rather good in Adventureland- it’s more that her trademark ‘angsty teen’ style doesn’t quite sit easily with the subject matter here. Chris Hemsworth, as the Huntsman, is also unspectacular- although given a role that mainly revolves around him grunting and pretending to be drunk, what more could he do? No wonder Viggo Mortenson, Tom Hardy, Johnny Depp, Michael Fassbender, and Hugh Jackman turned the role down. Charlize Theron, at least, turns in a memorable performance as the evil Queen Ravenna, oozing nastiness with every clipped syllable. The Seven Dwarves, as well, are a fun addition when they make their entrance- with Brian Gleeson and Nick Frost particularly impressive.
The mixed fortunes of the cast are mirrored (sorry) in the success of the set pieces. An escape sequence where Snow White flees the castle feels like a piss-poor period imitation of the Bourne Identity, while a potentially exhilarating troll fight ends in unbelievable anti-climax. However, everything is visually superb- although with a staggering $180m budget you’d expect it to be- and there are some really striking images throughout. A Dark Forest hallucination sequence is brilliantly shot and bursting with creativity, and the Queen submerging in a bath of milk… well…certainly memorable, if a little abstract.
The main problem, simply, is the emotional core. We just don’t care what happens. Stewart and Hemsworth have such a chronic lack of chemistry it’s often unclear who the romantic lead actually is. Actually, scratch that. It’s often unclear who the lead actually is. Snow White is one dimensional, the Huntsman is dull.
Overall, it’s watchable, and there are some nice moments, but that’s about it.