Every generation may need and/or deserve its own big-screen adaptation of the Brothers Grimm’s “Snow White,” and while Snow White and the Huntsman has its issues and pretenses, it pretends nicely to that throne of the cinematic Snow White of its day. This Rupert Sanders–directed version manages to grab your senses and hook up with the 21st-century mindset, where computer gaming, blends of medieval and cutting-edge digital effects, broad stereotypes, and kick-ass female protagonists are part of the cultural landscape. Watch for the game version, coming soon to a portal near you.
Said lovely and kick-ass heroine is, in this case, none other than Kristen (Twilight) Stewart, whose princess character is cast into the dark forest but destined to overcome the effects of an oppressive posse, poison apples, and an especially gruesome and rude forest monster, humbled in the face of her innocence and beauty. Speaking of the power and destructive force of beauty, Charlize Theron keeps stealing the screen with her dark-spirited splendor as the evil Queen Ravenna, the model of vanity gone wild. Never one to shy away from roles where her earthy beauty and seductive wiles are marshaled into some ugly character aspects (as recently seen in Young Adult), Theron fully relishes the classic role of the queen so obsessed with beauty that her insistence on being “the fairest in the land” comes at the expense of her essential humanity and morality.
One revisionist twist in this case is the role of the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), a swaggering hero-cum-drunkard from the village who ostensibly comes to Snow’s rescue, only to find that she is less the damsel-in-distress victim than a tough damsel character eager to exact revenge for her father’s untimely death. The dwarves in this picture (including Toby Jones and Bob Hoskins, made diminutive through digital means) are less the Disney-fied and cheerful “whistle while you work” clan and more a can-do band of ostracized but self-empowered men who rise to the mission at hand.
At too many points and plot turns during Snow White and the Huntsman, the material is taken too seriously and with too arch an approach, with the effect of making the adaptation seem silly. But, in the end, it has enough going for it to aspire to the lofty/lucrative status as engaging fairy-tale spinning for the Twilight age.