Netflix UK film review: Snow White and the Huntsman
James R | On 03, Jul 2014
Director: Rupert Sanders
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron
Watch Snow White and the Huntsman online in the UK: Netflix UK / Prime Video (Buy/Rent) / TalkTalk TV / iTunes
Once there was a woman who pricked her finger on a rose in winter and thought: “I wish I had a child as white as this snow with lips as red as blood.” Moments later, a baby was born – because that’s how motherhood works, according to Snow White and the Huntsman, which begins with a prologue as baffling as the rest of its 126 mind-boggling minutes.
Based on the original Brothers Grimm story, Rupert Sander’s twisted tale isn’t afraid of a little blood or carnage. In fact, it likes it so much that it hacks the story to bits, chopping and changing its plot every few minutes.
We don’t even meet our heroine until 15 minutes in – we’re too busy being told about Ravenna (Theron), the evil witch who seduces her way into the king’s bed, then kills him and seizes the throne. She and her snivelling brother lock Snow White (Stewart) in a tower, then proceed to suck the life out of the kingdom’s young girls to keep Ravenna looking soft-skinned and sexy. Occasionally, they dunk her in milk like a novelty-shaped Kinder Bueno.
“Mirror, mirror, on the wall… Who is the fairest of them all?” croons Theron, making eyes at herself. “You are, my queen,” says the mirror, melting onto the floor and turning into the shape of a man. Melty Man continues: “But today, one has come of age who will surpass you.”
“Snow White?” screams the queen. “I should have killed her when she was a child!” Why she didn’t is never explained.
Snow escapes from her prison (via a magical, fairy-summoned white steed) and leads an army to rise up against the queen. Along the way, we meet The Huntsman (Hemsworth), a mourning Scotsman shouldering a big axe and an even bigger drinking problem. He helps Snow to survive in the Deep Dark Woods, the trippy place where creepy monsters go to die (and dissolve and do other weird things). Inevitably, the couple fall in love, because of reasons.
Then, we stumble across the dwarves, a CGI-stunted troupe of bawdy actors, who introduce a sequence straight out of Princess Mononoke. “Can’t you see? She’s the one!” gasps a dwarf, as Snow White talks with the forest spirits. The fact that it’s said by a miniature Bob Hoskins only makes it more laughable.
Of course, Snow White and the Huntsman doesn’t have much time for laughter; everyone is too busy being moody and gothic. That serious tone is ultimately the movie’s downfall. There are a few welcome smirks. Some of them come from Nick Frost’s diminutive dimwit (“You promised us gold and all we’ve got is poo!”) but most of them come from Charlize Theron. Not always in a good way.
Shouting, shrieking and yelling her way through the film, she goes all out as the ageing witch. At times, her delightfully camp villain gives this dull adventure a much-needed threat. At other times, she resembles an entry in the Eurovision song contest.
Kristen Stewart fares much better, making her heroine as different to Twilight’s Bella Swan as possible, despite the limited script. Hunky Hemsworth’s fleshed-out role, meanwhile, deserves to win awards: specifically, the Russell Crowe Award for Best Accent.
Disorganised story lines. Derived set pieces. Hammy cast members. Fortunately, Sanders is at the helm to tie all of these things together. The first-time director tries to paper over the gaps by covering everything in CGI. It doesn’t quite work, but alongside Colleen Atwood’s costumes and Dominic Watkins’s production design, it sure looks impressive. One stunning scene sees Ravenna explode into a cloud of crows, bursting through the window before collapsing back down on the floor in a lumpy, tar-like ooze. She gradually turns back into a human, spitting disjointed, undeveloped fragments everywhere. That, you sense, is what the script might have looked like during shooting.
Snow White & The Huntsman is available on Netflix UK, as part of an £9.99 monthly subscription.