Too many bad apples spoil a tale
By Michael O'Sullivan
Friday, June 1, 2012
“Snow White and the Huntsman” has everything you remember from the classic fairy tale, plus a heck of a lot you don’t.
Overlong, overcrowded, overstimulating and with an over-the-top performance by Charlize Theron as the evil queen Ravenna, the movie is a virtual orchard of toxic excess, starting with the unnecessarily sprawling cast of characters.
Why is this movie even called “Snow White and the Huntsman”? As the man sent to capture Snow White (Kristen Stewart) and bring her back so that Ravenna can chow down on the heroine’s still-beating heart -- ewww, by the way -- Chris Hemsworth is no more important to the story than, say, the queen’s creepy brother, Finn (Sam Spruell). Finn is really the one who ends up hunting Snow White anyway, after the nameless huntsman falls victim to his prey’s beauty and becomes her protector.
In that department, the huntsman’s got competition, too. Snow White’s handsome childhood friend William (Sam Claflin) also is out to save her from Finn, leading to the obvious question: Is Kristen Stewart contractually obligated to have two guys fighting over her in every movie she makes?
Even the dwarves here are super-size. Initially, there are eight of them, not seven. And they’re played by such full-size actors as Ian McShane and Nick Frost, who are made to look short through special-effects trickery. Wouldn’t it have been simpler, not to mention cheaper and less discriminatory, to just hire little people?
In general, the special effects are quite impressive, but there are too many of them. Take the queen’s mirror, which morphs into a molten human figure (a la Robert Patrick’s liquid-metal T-1000 in “Terminator 2: Judgment Day”) or the queen’s army, whose soldiers turn into shards of black glass. “Snow White” is chockablock with visual gimcrackery.
A pair of twee CGI fairies, an angry troll and a giant white stag with tree branches for antlers -- which appears out of nowhere, like Narnia’s Aslan, and then turns into butterflies after getting shot with an arrow -- may be cool to look at, but they add nothing to the story.
Ah, the story.
You know it already, pretty much. Ravenna is jealous of Snow White’s beauty and wants her dead. Aside from some kinks in the yarn -- Ravenna’s beauty regimen involves bathing in milk as thick as latex paint, and sucking the youth out of young women’s mouths, like a Dementor from “Harry Potter” -- there’s little that adds suspense or originality to the tale. And never mind the whole Team Huntsman vs. Team William romantic controversy. Both of Snow White’s suitors are tepid washouts.
It’s like an episode of “The Bachelor,” but with a British accent. The pasty, delicate-boned William goes around saying things such as “As you wish, m’lady,” while our hunky huntsman grunts such anachronisms as “Okay!” and “Forget it!”
The rest of the dialogue (by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini) fares little better. At one point, Snow White -- outfitted like Joan of Arc and preparing to lead an assault on the queen’s castle -- actually utters these words, apropos of nothing: “Iron will melt, but it will writhe inside of itself.”
Say what, now?
Directed by first-timer Rupert Sanders, “Snow White and the Huntsman” feels less like a movie than a deadly cocktail of movie cliches, all of which have been thrown into a blender, set to “slow” and pureed for two hours.
Contains violence and some blood.
A review of the film "Snow White and the Huntsman" in the June 1, 2012 Weekend section incorrectly stated that the story does not include a poison apple. There is one. This version has been corrected.