About the first time the Evil Queen (Charlize Theron) showed up in Snow White and the Huntsman, I was on board with this project. The Queen’s motivation, instead of just being evil for evil’s sake, is that she was indoctrinated at a young age that beauty is the only way for a woman to survive in the world; deprived of that, women will be thrown away by men. She has turned evil because of that type of attitude. Okay. This could be an interesting take on the tale of Snow White.
She takes over a kingdom in one of the earliest scenes, killing everyone who didn’t escape but the King’s daughter, Snow White (Kristen Stewart), because she figures having royal blood around could be beneficial. The Queen, who has magical powers, stays looking youthful by draining the life of young women. She continually asks her magic mirror if she’s the most beautiful in all the land, and for many years the answer was “yes.” The real plot begins on Snow White’s 18th birthday, at which point she is deemed fairer than the Queen. And while Snow White is sent to be killed, she manages to escape her prison and run into the Dark Forest.
It’s here where the “huntsman” of the title comes in. He, played by Chris Hemsworth, is tasked to hunt down Snow White by the evil Queen, but upon finding her quickly switches sides. Now, he, Snow White, and anyone they can find will all team up in an attempt to overthrow the Queen and her wicked rule. Such is the plot of the second 2012 re-imagining of Snow White.
The film uses the basic tale as a backdrop in order to tell its own little story. And by “its own,” I mean “one that’s so generic that it could have been stolen from any number of sources.” There isn’t anything in Snow White and the Huntsman that you haven’t seen before, and apart from a few action scenes there isn’t even a whole lot to hold your attention. This is in spite of a running time that not only matches but exceeds the two-hour mark. How long was the Disney film? 83 minutes? It contains more plot, character, and fun than this movie, and it was a shorter, animated film from 1937.
Let’s tackle those in order. Plot is first. Snow White and the Huntsman can do very little beyond what I’ve already laid out for you. All of its elements — save for the dwarves, who do show up but do very little — are established really early on. Its plot essentially amounts to this: “Here is the bad guy, here are the good guys, and eventually they will fight because of reasons.”
This could be livened up with characters, but apart from the slightly interesting motivation of the Queen, these are some incredibly bland characters. Snow White has no personality or even consistency. She is what the scene demands at the moment, and will completely change character depending on those needs. The Huntsman is sad because his wife died, and perhaps he loves Snow White. But then we learn that Snow White might be loved by everyone. Or something. She might have some sort of eternal goodness to her which makes her everyone’s love, but it’s so poorly defined that I can’t even be sure.
Snow White and the Huntsman is also so dreary and dark that there’s hardly a smile to be found. There’s perhaps one happy scene in this movie. One. And that involves dwarves and dancing, because you need a dwarven dancing scene in a Snow White movie. The rest is grim and dark and while that could work, having an action movie where the tone is that drab ensures nobody gets any enjoyment out of the proceedings. It doesn’t help that the action isn’t any good, but even if it was it would be hard to like watching it because everyone involved is angry and sad and covered in mud.
To that end, whose idea was it to cast Kristen Stewart in the role of Snow White? To begin with, the film is set in a land where everyone has English accents. Stewart isn’t English and while I have no doubt that she had a vocal coach and put in a large amount of hours to try to emulate one, it sounds awful. She doesn’t really look like a Snow White to me, but that’s personal. And I suppose if they are going “dark and gritty,” her general lack of … smiling and laughing makes sense.
If there is a reason to see Snow White and the Huntsman, it’s for Charlize Theron’s completely over-the-top and wonderful performance as the villainous Queen. This is the type of turn that you don’t get often from anyone, really, and especially not from someone like Theron. Watching her perform in this movie almost makes the film worth watching. If the focus was solely on her — just sitting there, waiting for the off-screen action of the story to occur — I would recommend it.
Snow White and the Huntsman is a dreary and boring action film that tangentially uses the mythos of the Grimms’ Snow White, but ultimately uses a plot borrowed from more films than you can count on your fingers. It’s generic, completely lacking in any sort of fun, has a poor Snow White, and despite being incredibly shallow somehow manages to run for over two hours. Apart from Charlie Theron’s performance, there isn’t any reason for you to watch this movie.