Wednesday, May 30, 2012

SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (fantasy adventure)
Cast: Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Sam Spruell, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone and Eddie Marsan 
Director: Rupert Sanders
Screenplay: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock
Time: 125 mins
Rating:  *  *  * (out of 4)

Hemsworth and Stewart as the Huntsman and Snow White

PREAMBLE: We have two Snow White flicks this year but the two are as different as day and night. While Mirror Mirror is a comedy spoof aimed at families, Snow White and The Huntsman is a darker fantasy for young adults, sans the adult-type visuals and humour.

Director Rupert Sanders, making his feature debut on a screenplay by Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock, maintains a murky and gritty narrative that stretches over more than two numbing hours. Yes, it's somewhat like taking the Grimm tale into Game Of Thrones territory, complete with lofty cliffs and expansive snowy locales.

Charlize Theron as the Queen and her fluid mirror

WHAT'S IT ABOUT?  This alternate version set in medieval Europe has a witch named Ravenna (Charlize Theron) as the evil stepmother who kills the king on their wedding night, seizes the throne and imprisons Snow White (Kristen Stewart) in a tower dungeon. Somehow, Snow White manages to escape not to the woods but to the Dark Forest where the queen's magic has no effect.

To get Snow White back, the queen and her beloved brother (Sam Spruell) 'hire' a nameless Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down. Meanwhile, Snow White's former childhood playmate (Sam Clafin as William) is also looking for her, setting up the love triangle that Stewart of the Twilight Saga is so famous for. What about the Dwarfs? you ask. Well, they come in rather late in the movie - and none are whistling while they work. They do sing, surprisingly.

HITS & MISSES: First, the hits. I like the breath-taking landscapes and fantasy sets that remind us of those in Lord Of The Rings and Princess Mononoke. These help to ground the fantasy with a touch of credulity besides enhancing the movie's eye-candy value. Ditto that for the fabulous costumes by Colleen Atwood.

I also like the way the dwarfs (eight here, not just seven) are being portrayed by top British stars the likes of Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson and Toby Jones who are computer-digitized to look half their size. They provide comic relief and a touch of rough humour in an otherwise solemn and brooding film.

As for the misses, the most outstanding is Miss Stewart whose range of expressions alternates between pouting petulance and silent rage. In other words, she is still playing Bella here. Well, one can easily argue that her Snow White probably gets that attitude after being shut up in the dungeon for so many years. I am inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt, having seen her play the audacious teen rocker Joan Jett in The Runaways. I believe she can act better if directed to do so. Theron tends to overact, bursting into her evil rages ever so often; while Hemsworth provides the beefcake moments.

The other gripe is the overstretched length of the film in which the film-makers try their utmost to provide the character psycho-analyses for the evil Queen and even the Huntsman. This is unnecessary in a popular fairy tale and it just cramps the movie with too much baggage. 

THE LOWDOWN: Derivative but highly watchable fare.

The Huntsman and the Dwarfs


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