Snow White and the Huntsman (SWATH) is another film to take a stab at the classic tale from the Brothers Grimm, which is noticeably different from the Walt Disney Classic. Taking on a more dark and gritty atmosphere, SWATH tells the story of Snow White (Kristen Stewart) leading a revolution against her wicked step-mother, Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Without giving too much away, the story begins with Snow’s mother dying and her father quickly marrying Ravenna. Naturally, Ravenna has a more sinister agenda and takes control of the King’s castle. She locks the young Snow White away in a tower, never to be seen again.
The plot then skips to Snow White reaching adulthood, alerting Ravenna’s magic mirror that Snow is the fairest in the land. The reasons behind why being the fairest are explained further into the movie, but I can say that the motivation behind Ravenna’s actions are not based solely on vanity. Through a few strokes of chance and fate, Snow is able to escape the tower and begins her adventure. Along the way, she meets several unique characters: The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), The Band of Dwarves, Trolls, Fairies, and her long lost childhood friend, William (Sam Claflin).
While having a somewhat star-studded cast, none of the actors really stole the show. Kristen Stewart did a decent job adding some emotion to her blank stares, giving some hope to what she could become in the future. While she was the lead role of the film, she had shockingly sparse dialogue. After hearing Chris Hemsworth was going to play Thor, I had very low expectations from him. But, he surprised me with the quality of his performance in Thor, and he’s done the same in SWATH. He was able to create a surprisingly relatable and heartfelt character out of the Huntsman. Charlize Theron, overall, did a fantastic job portraying Ravenna.
While I was watching the film, I was only able to catch one of the dwarves’ names, but there were plenty of recognizable faces in their merry band. The dwarves were: Beith (Ian McShane), Quert (Johnny Harris), Muir (Bob Hoskins), Coll (Toby Jones), Duir (Eddie Marson), Gus (Brian Gleeson), Gort (Ray Winstone), and Nion (Nick Frost). While the initial shock of seeing the actors faces planted onto smaller bodies was jarring, the performances of the group quickly lull you back into suspended disbelief. They had a great chemistry on screen and a surprising amount of depth. I was expecting the dwarves to be the comedic relief, but they turned out to have quite a bit of heart.
The production value was much higher than I was expecting, which definitely added to the quality of SWATH. If the effects had been terrible, I’m not sure if the film could have stood on its other aspects. Thankfully, all of the CGI was up to snuff with the expectations of a mainstream hit. Not only did the monsters look good, but the Dwarves looked so much better than I was expecting. In the beginning of Captain America: The First Avenger, the overlay of Chris Evans’ head onto that tiny body really made it difficult to believe the movie. In SWATH, they easily avoid that problem and create lifelike characters out of the dwarves. Another great example of the CGI was a scene involving Ravenna clawing her way out of this well of oil or tar. As she made her way out of it, the tar/oil that was covering her slowly became black feathers and eventually became her cloak. Little touches like this really gave SWATH a step-up from the average fantasy film.
The cinematic style of SWATH seemed to shift several times throughout the movie. Overall, the film was very well shot and never ceased to enthrall you with its fantastical environments, but it also seemed to be cut into thirds. The first third of the film was very focused on a more artistic cinematic style, featuring little dialogue and more stylized scenes. Personally, I wish that they had kept the more artistic feeling throughout the entire film. Around the time that the Huntsman and the Dwarves are introduced, it begins to feel like any other movie out there, with more witty dialogue and common set-piece settings. The last third of SWATH seemed to be a combination of both, sweeping over beautiful environments and having stylized action sequences.
The music in SWATH was another pleasant surprise, fitting well with the setting and styles of the film. While most of the soundtrack is comprised of epic, modern orchestral pieces, it’s what is interspersed throughout that soundtrack that makes it great. For example, about halfway through the film, one of the dwarves begins singing a sorrowful song, but as the shot pans away, the vocals are taken over by a female, celtic singer. This song becomes quite beautiful, while keeping that sorrow. It fit so well into the scene, as well as the following montage, that it makes you feel much more sympathy towards the events going on. Also, Florence + the Machine added an original track for the film called, “Breath of Life”. Of course, if you enjoy Florence + the Machine, you’ll love its use in SWATH.
A few complaints I had against SWATH mostly involved plot holes and some cheesy dialogue. While I was happy to see that there was not a major romantic element in the movie, they seemed to include too little of the expected romance. There is one particular scene that implies there is a romance between Snow and one of the major characters, but then it is left completely unexplained for the rest of the film. Also, there were several instances where characters that are presumed dead or mortally wounded made appearances later in the film completely unharmed. I’m not sure if a few of the scenes suffered from the dialogue or how that dialogue was delivered, but either way, some scenes were cringe or laugh worthy. There was one particular scene with Charlize Theron screaming that Snow, “Could Not Defeat Her”. While it was intended to be an intimidating and scary scene, the delivery of that line caused quite a few giggles to erupt across the audience. Still, these complaints pale in comparison to the number of things that SWATH does right.
I have to admit that I was caught off guard by this movie, considering how little I was expecting from it. SWATH took an overdone tale and created something fresh and original. While it may not appeal to every person, it blends enough genres to create a wide audience that could enjoy sitting through the two hours it takes to unfold. The unique style and atmosphere created a version of Snow White that I would actually want to watch.
I Give Snow White and the Huntsman 4 “Soul Steals” out of 5
By Blake Edwards