Movies: "Snow White and the Huntsman" | Arts & Culture

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Movies: "Snow White and the Huntsman"
Movies: "Snow White and the Huntsman"

 

“Snow White and the Huntsman” is the first feature-length movie directed by Britain’s Rupert Sanders -- and it’s an impressive debut.  (He landed the job largely due to an award-winning commercial for a video game called “Halo 3.”)

 

There are some weaknesses -- the movie is about a half-hour too long, for one thing -- but I have to say I enjoyed seeing it as much or more than a lot of bigger-name summer popcorn flicks, thanks in large part to its outstanding production values.

 

This is one dark fairy tale, with more than its share of battles, sorcery and death-dealing.  We never see any bluebirds, but there are lots of ravens.

 

Charlize Theron chews a lot of scenery (and some bird guts) as Ravenna, the wicked queen who uses black magic to usurp the throne of this medieval English fantasyland and imprisons its rightful heir, princess Snow White (Kristen Stewart).  When her enchanted mirror tells Ravenna that she has a rival in beauty, she sends her incestuous-seeming brother to fetch the prisoner so she can eat her heart and gain immortality.  Of course, Snow White makes a break for it and winds up lost in the dismal forest surrounding the castle, where the swamp fumes have the effect of a strong dose of mescaline.

 

So the wicked queen drags in a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, aka Thor), with orders to find Snow White.  But as soon as he lays eyes on her, he realizes she’s far too important to the plot to simply get killed, so off they go together.  Along the way, they pick up allies in the form of seven dwarfs, played by some of England’s finest actors, including Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone and Eddie Marsan, along with Snow White’s childhood sweetheart (Sam Claflin), now all grown up as a Robin Hood-style archer.  By the time this all ends, Snow White, in full Joan of Arc mode, will lead an assault on Ravenna’s castle.

 

Rupert Sanders says he drew inspiration for his scene-setting from children’s book illustrators like Arthur Rackham, but there are movie influences here as well, primarily such films as “Lord of the Rings” and “Gladiator.”  Filmed largely in England and off the coast of Ireland, our band of heroes crosses vast forests and snowy mountain ranges, their travels culminating in a heroic charge along a beach.  It’s a lot of dramatic scenery and a lot of fun to watch, even if it is dragged out a bit.

 

Sanders may be a newbie, but he drew on a lot of seasoned veterans to create this movie, including cinematographer Greig Fraser (“Let Me In”), production designer Dominic Watkins (“The Bourne Supremacy” and “United 93”), composer James Newton Howard (“The Hunger Games”) and, best of all, costume designer Colleen Atwood (“Alice in Wonderland,” “Dark Shadows” and “Public Enemies” among many others).  Her take on medieval clothing is nothing short of brilliant.

 

The screenplay was co-written by another newcomer, Evan Daugherty, along with script veterans John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”) and Hossein Amini (“Drive”).

 

Kristen Stewart is an attractive but pretty glum performer, in my opinion, and she rarely shines in this role.  Charlize Theron has much more fun as the baddie, and Chris Hemsworth is solid as the Yorkshire-accented huntsman.  The only people who appear to having much fun here are the dwarfs.  

 

“Snow White and the Huntsman” is rated PG-13, and is definitely not for very young moviegoers.  It’s a handsome, literate fairy tale with the CGI effects giving way to some very human emotions.  

 

I give it a B-Plus.

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