I know, I know. You’d been waking up in the middle of the night covered in sweat, frantically trying to catch your breath wondering why no one had made Snow White into an action movie. Prepare for restful, uninterrupted sleep with the arrival of “Snow White & the Huntsman.”
But even then, you’re just as likely to be disappointed with the finished product, which is more familiar to other recent fantasy/adventure films than what could have been a very unique spin on an old fairy tale.
It’s what would have been the end result of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy if Peter Jackson was more concerned with all-flash and no real substance.
Still, first-time director Rupert Sanders doesn’t tip off his lack of experience too often. Sanders previously directed commercials so he has all the basics down in terms of making the film seductive to the eye from the fairy forest filled with fantastic creature to the glass enemies that shatter into shards when struck, but he struggles making it as epic as he intends.
On her wedding night, the devious Ravenna (Charlize Theron, “Young Adult”) murders the king and cruelly rules the kingdom.
She snacks on the hearts of birds, bathes in milk and her every command sounds like a thinly-veiled threat to all of her subjects, including her loyal brother Finn (Sam Spruell). Her cruelty hides a growing insecurity of her fading beauty, which she can only replenish using magic to suck the essence of girls throughout the land. Her faithful mirror, which is either a golden shrouded figure or a hallucination (it’s never fully explained), continuously feeds her ego by saying she’s the fairest of them all.
Theron, a Best Actress Oscar winner in 2004 for “Monster,” is surprisingly off her game. Her over-the-top theatrics seem fit for another movie.
To achieve immortality, the mirror advises Ravenna to finally steal the essence of the king’s daughter — Snow White (Kristen Stewart, “The Twilight Saga: New Moon”) — whom Ravenna has kept locked away in a tower.
Snow White escapes the soul sucking and flees the kingdom thanks to a laughably convenient horse. Ravenna and Finn recruit The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, “Thor,” “Marvel’s The Avengers”) to track her down. The Huntsman is amazingly effective and what could have been an intriguing game of cat and mouse with Snow White trying to stay one step ahead of The Huntsman is over as soon as he gets on her trail. The Huntsman quickly realizes he’s on the wrong side and agrees to escort Snow White to her father’s few remaining allies. Among them is Snow White’s childhood friend, William (Sam Claflin, “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides”), who is determined to help her.
A more proactive Snow White would have made for a more compelling movie, but instead the audience has to choose if they’re on “Team Huntsman” or “Team William” as to who they want to see save her. The Huntsman is the obvious choice as Hemsworth makes him easily the most complex and entertaining character of the film. Ditch the princess, the queen and the shape-shifting mirror and just make a Huntsman movie as he’s the only one that brings some spark.
Along the way, Snow White meets a group of surly, ready to rumble dwarves (led by Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane and Ray Winstone), who decide to help her after being promised their weight in gold. The dwarves are fun, but they’re tacked on so late as if they were an obligation since everyone associates Snow White and the dwarves and for little else.
Stewart is game, but she doesn’t have the range to be a compelling heroine, opting for the same wide-eyed expressions that work fine in the “Twilight” world, but aren’t nearly as convincing in a straight-up action film. Sanders seemed to want to try his hand at a “Lord of the Rings” meets “Twilight” action film and he accomplishes that with some wild action scenes and a potential love triangle. While the film isn’t the equivalent of a poisoned apple, it certainly is a rotten one. Skip it and watch the Disney version instead.
Rating: 4 of 10