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'Snow White and the Huntsman': A visual spectacle

By Gordy Stillman

Section: Arts

September 14, 2012

This past year boasts a cultural fascination with Snow White. ABC’s hit show “Once Upon A Time” stars Ginnifer Goodwin as one interpretation of the classic role. On the big screen, Relativity Media released “Mirror Mirror,” a comedic take on the famous fairytale. Finally, “Snow White and the Huntsman,” a more serious adaptation, reached theaters in June and was released on Bluray and DVD this past Tuesday.

Unlike the Disney version, “Snow White and the Huntsman” is a significantly darker film. When Snow White’s father, the King, wins a victory over the mysterious dark army, he asks for the hand of a woman named Ravenna (Charlize Theron) whom he rescued in the battle. On their wedding night, Ravenna kills the king and reveals that she is the master of the dark army. Her forces then take over the kingdom. Ravenna imprisons Snow in the castle, until years later, on the girl’s 18th birthday the Queen discovers that Snow is destined to destroy her. Ravenna also discovers that she must consume Snow’s heart in order to become immortal. When Snow escapes into the dark forest, where the Queen’s power holds no sway, Ravenna sends the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) who has previously survived a trip into the forest, after her. But when the Huntsman learns that the Queen will not be able to pay what she promised him, the Huntsman switches sides, setting up a love triangle between Snow, the Huntsman and Prince William (played by Sam Claflin and better known in the original tale as Prince Charming).

First and foremost, “Snow White and The Huntsman” is a spectacle. The visual effects, from the beginning of the movie with the battle between the king’s army and the mysterious dark army, to the final battle between Snow White and Ravenna, are above and beyond expectations. It is impressive to see visual effects when considering that the color palette for the film is overwhelmingly dark. Similar spectacles, such as Avatar, are saturated with color, making “Snow White” a new and interesting take on how to create such a visually-based movie.

Perhaps the greatest flaw in the film is its predictability. Granted, it is based on a common fairy tale, which means that the story will always take a certain direction. “Snow White” attempted to change the story into something more tailored for modern audiences, but in many ways the new plot was as predictable as the old. There were also failures in the movie’s attempt to tailor the story. For instance, while the addition of the Huntsman as Snow White’s romantic interest added drama to many scenes, it lacked depth and intrigue.

Another more subjective criticism is the pairing of Kristin Stewart as Snow White with Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna. Whereas Theron makes an impressive shift from the sweet victim in her opening scene to pure evil moments later, Stewart’s portrayal is not as stunning. From her introduction as a prisoner on her 18th birthday, Stewart’s portrayal was subpar. For instance, her escape from a prison cell where she was held captive for at least five years, is simply improbable. Overall, her character development stutters throughout the film. While the title hints that the Huntsman will play a significant role in Snow White’s tale, Stewart’s Snow White makes it very unclear what that role is. Additionally, it is never made clear how Snow White is able to defeat the queen, and it seems to be presented as a “just because” scenario. Furthermore, Stewart’s casting, along with the movie’s darker tones made the movie feel as though the producers meant to liken the story to the incredibly popular “Twilight” franchise.

On the other hand, Charlize Theron’s portrayal is chilling and multifaceted. At her introduction, a point where the audience knows she’s evil but the characters are unaware, it’s easy to forget that she’s supposed to be purely villainous. Later, after her true colors become apparent and more of her backstory is revealed, the complexities of her character become apparent.

The visuals of “Snow White and the Huntsman” are stunning, holding the audience’s attention despite the fact that the movie retells a story that is well-known. While it sometimes suffers from a Twilight-esque portrayal. Charlize Theron’s version of the evil queen is chilling and helps to save the film. The story is certainly not original, but the visuals alone merit a rental.

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