I love it when a film shatters all of your preconceived expectations. “Snow White and the Huntsman” accomplished such a feat, demonstrating that fantasy fairy-tale flicks can be downright astonishing. Beware: It's dark, diabolical and devoid of any Disney “heigh-ho” levity.
Charlize Theron plays Ravenna, the monstrous stepmother who murders her husband on their wedding bed and imprisons his young daughter, Snow White (Kristen Stewart). When Snow White escapes years later, Ravenna enlists (threatens) a drunken widower, the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), to capture her in hopes of eating her heart. Seems the Queen is no longer fairest of them all and the consuming of virgin hearts keeps her wrinkles at bay.
But, it's Snow White who does the capturing when the huntsman finds her in the Dark Forest and she steals his heart. Upon escaping, the two encounter eight dwarves and a childhood friend, Prince William (Sam Clafin), who all pledge their allegiance in taking down the evil queen. And the rest is fairy-tale history.
First-time feature director Rupert Sanders (known for innovative TV commercials) was insistent about creating “a great world based on a great story.” And that he does in this magnificent piece of filmmaking. He creates dark, hallucinogenic realms as well as magical fairylands through CGI and genius art direction.
A super-slick trick that Sanders employs is imposing the faces of such actors as Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone and Toby Jones on to small bodies to create the dwarves. These are not your whistle-while-you-work blokes but, rather, nasty hard-drinking thieves. One even gets killed along the way, reducing them to the original seven. This is definitely not your typical bedtime story.
And, as for the pernicious queen, Theron nails depravity with a heavy, beautiful whack. Sumptuously clothed by costume designer extraordinaire Coleen Atwood, Theron's wickedness is only surpassed by her breathtaking beauty. She screams like a banshee, but it's almost like music to the ears coming from such a gifted actress.
If there is a message one can glean from “Snow White and the Huntsman,” it's a universal and timeless one. Obsession about one's physical appearance can have dire consequences. But, if I'm not mistaken, Sanders was more concerned with the medium in making this wonderful film.
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