‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ Review
The scenery is gorgeous. Charlize Theron looks great in close-up and her costumes are spectacular. The special effect of turning all those British character actors into dwarfs is impressive. Um. . .did I mention the scenery is gorgeous?
Yeah, I think I've said all the nice things I can think of concerning 'Snow White and the Huntsman,' a would-be epic that is merely lifeless at best and flat-out insipid at worst.
Despite all its chain mail and shimmering swords, the first two-thirds is the same basic Snow White story you already know, just a little more. . .extreme. Only, no, it isn't extreme, it's faux-extreme. Dark, yes, but bloodless, bland and clearly born from a board room looking to capitalize on “all that fantasy crap the kids like these days.”
By some twist of fate, the dullest of all possible humans, Kristen Stewart, has a high Q-rating due to her involvement in the dreadful 'Twilight' films, so, from a strictly banking perspective, it makes perfect sense to cast her as the heroine of this tale. The trouble is that she has all the flavor of dried celery. She is meant to represent pure life (Ian McShane actually calls her “The One”) with a near Na'vi-like connection to ten foot tall elk and other critters. She's also Joan of Arc, suiting up in armor and charging on her horse, sword held high.
How it is that a young woman who's been kept locked in a tower since her prepubescent years knows how to sword fight isn't explained. If I didn't jot this down in my notebook, I may have forgotten this little dip in logic, not because the climax to 'Snow White and the Huntsman' is so riveting it negates all quibbles, but because there are so many dumb parts it is impossible to remember them all.
Here's one worthy of the some scorn. The Queen (Charlize Theron) forces “The Huntsman” (Chris 'Thor' Hemsworth) to go find Snow White in the Dark Forest. No way, he's going there. It's so dangerous! If he won't go she'll kill him, she says, plus, when he gets back, she'll resurrect his dead wife (she's got powers). Despite bitching and moaning that entering the Dark Forest is a death sentence, he leads the Queen's brother (and others) to Snow White in the amount of time it takes an editor to cut. But Snow White argues “the Queen will betray you!” and the Queen's brother basically says, “yeah – she's right. She can't bring your wife back.”
Why the HELL would he say that? He can't just say “she's nuts!” and change the topic? They know The Huntsman is a badass – that's why they hired him!
There's plenty more, like when Snow White is in desperate need of a horse for a minute, then a horse appears, but then disappears when she doesn't need it anymore. Or when Thor's accent moves from English to Scottish to some sort of Sylvester Stallone. Or the sole attempt at humor: a smelly poo joke. Or the face-morphing CGI that looks like someone left in the pre-viz software, making this the worst bit of big budget special effects since the sink destruction in 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine.'
Basically, this is a movie designed to watch 'Mystery Science Theater 3000'-style. Lord knows you've got to say something to break the tension when Charlize Theron is writhing around on the floor whimpering.
Poor Charlize, she really gives it her all, but she's all over the map. For a minute I thought she was going campy, like Julia Roberts in the vastly superior 'Mirror, Mirror' or super depraved like Lena Headey's Cersei in 'Game of Thrones.' I get the impression that the production may have been buttoned up on the outstanding crowns she wears, but the character's tone was never locked down.
The blame for all this rests on the screenwriters (one of whom is the always awful John Lee Hancock) and the director, newcomer Rupert Sanders. The characters are given nothing unique to say or do and Sanders has no clue how to take lemons and make lemonade. There are two opportunities where Kristen Stewart and Thor are supposed to “share a moment.” I wouldn't be surprised if the screenplay just said “Insert Emotional Connection Here, details t/k.” Sanders takes this and runs with it by having his leads. . .stare at one another. That's it. That's what's supposed to set 13-year-old girls' hearts aflame and prove the executives that greenlit this disaster were right. Instead, it's a laugh riot.
Oh, and the mirror on the wall? It's more like a giant gold punch bowl. What's up with that?
‘Snow White and the Huntsman’ hits theaters on June 1st
Jordan Hoffman was the movies editor at Hearst Digital’s UGO for four years and currently contributes to SlashFilm, MTV’s NextMovie and StarTrek.com. He’s made two marginally successful independent movies, is a member of the New York Film Critics Online and was named IFC’s Ultimate Film Fanatic of the NorthEast in 2004. Follow him on Twitter at @JHoffman6.