In the same vein as Tim Burtons “Alice in Wonderland,” “Snow White and the Huntsman” seeks to turn a classic female fairytale character into a battle-crying version of “Robin Hood.” Not that that’s a bad thing. I can’t wait to see Goldilocks pick up a flamethrower and hunt some bear in a movie real soon.
Charlize Theron takes on the role of the evil queen, who tricks a king, ravages his land, and imprisons his young daughter in a tower, all in a day’s work. The young girl grows up to be Snow (Kristen Stewart), the land’s most fair maiden (although I would imagine nine out of ten mirrors would rather go for Theron). She manages to escape, forcing the queen to hire a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down and steal her heart, which is the one thing that will give the queen eternal youth.
Things don’t go as planned.
Visually “Snow White” is stunning. We meet pixies and trolls and director Rupert Sanders excels at the dark atmosphere esthetic (a haunted forest sequence shot like an L.S.D. nightmare is a highlight) and the battle sequences. And perhaps the best effect is the one where the heads of familiar character actors are transposed onto smaller bodies, making up the dwarves. Indeed, this is the first and last time you’ll see me calling Ian McShane, Tobey Jones, Bob Hoskins, and Ray Winstone adorable.
But all this is not enough to hide a very hollow center. Stewart spends most of the movie looking like she’s wondering what to do with herself. Only later do we discover that she’s meant to be both plausible romantic interest (for Hemsworth) and battle-ready leader (ala “Gladiator”), both of which the script by Hossein Amini, John Lee Hancock, and Evan Daugherty does little to convince me of. Theron also appears to be waiting to bare her teeth in the end. Her part is paper thinly written as a beauty-obsessed witch who spends most of the movie either screeching or writhing over her own aging. But her vindictive iciness does give the flick a needed heartbeat on occasion. As does Hemsworth, providing brawn, grieving heart (he’s a widower), and the few and much-needed humorous moments.
There are a few tasty apples here but ultimately “Snow White” does not deliver on its potential to render a legendary story.