Re:View – ‘Snow White & The Huntsman’
There are two ways you can go with fairtytales on film; you can make them camp and primary-coloured, like ‘Mirror, Mirror’ (which was a fail) or – to paraphrase Monty Python – you can cover them in shit. This is of the latter type, where the villagers squelch about in mud and fleas, and even the Queen’s castle looks like it needs a jetwash. It’s an approach first-time director Rupert Sanders pulls off with a flourish, and has several advantages.
Mainly, it injects some real heart and danger into the familiar story, so that Snow White’s entrance into the Dark Wood feels genuinely magical. For once nothing looks rubbery and fake – there’s an organic, gritty feel to the creatures, insects and flora that takes CGI to a new level of realism. And there’s a nod to Hiyao Miyazaki here with the fungus-encrusted tortoises that come to life under Snow White’s touch.
This realistic approach has a downside, though, as it turns the all-star dwarves into filthy grunting tramps barely distinguishable from each other. Even huntsman Chris Hemsworth’s perfect features are buried behind a beard, matted hair, mud and a dodgily-accented voice that’s Groundskeeper Willie mixed with someone dragging a block of granite across a gravel floor. Charlize Theron makes a thrillingly wicked Queen with a tragic backstory that explains her jaundiced view of mankind. She’s a potent adversary, and steals every scene she’s in by actually acting.
Which brings me to Kristen Stewart, whose frozen face and inability to PLACE the RIGHT emphasis on HER words virtually wrecks the film. The unsmiling, flat-faced, dead-eyed ‘Twilight’ star shows less animation than the Dark Wood’s scary trees, and her big troop-rallying speech is less of an urgent call to arms than the needy screeching of a teenager who’s had her mobile tariff capped. Even when she’s eventually crowned (that’s not exactly a spoiler, is it?) she only manages a superior smirk that suggests she might make a much worse ruler than Theron.
There are sections of glacial pacing (mainly when the dwarves start mournfully singing like ASBO-Hobbits) and Theron is too easily and abruptly despatched, but it’s a well-directed film that will appeal to ‘Twilight’ fans. I’d like to see what the director could do with a fact-based historical drama, rather than an over-familiar fairytale.