Review: 'Snow White & the Huntsman' a Rocky Start to Sanders' Career

June 1, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman Review

Getting back to the darker roots of fairy tales is one of the many things Snow White and the Huntsman does right. The dark characters in muddy sets and strange creatures lurking in shadows are all on display, much of them effectively executed with spot-on aid by digital effects, though most of it pulled from other, similar stories. But a key ingredient to this applesauce mixture of witches, dwarves and knights is lacking - the direction. Without an interesting eye behind the camera, Snow White and the Huntsman winds up a cavalcade of rich items all shown in the blandest of ways, and the lifeless film is just barely saved by all the details working in unison. It leaves a taste of disappointment, but there's also room for growth.

A story that is told largely through its key monster, the film introduces Ravenna (Charlize Theron), a wicked witch who woos her way into a king's bed before stabbing her way into ownership of the throne.  The king's daughter, Snow White (Kristen Stewart), is thrust into a prison tower and kept there unharmed apparently - The film doesn't bother to tell us why Ravenna doesn't just kill the girl. She's killed everything else with youth and beauty in the kingdom and taken their souls to keep herself young. And beautiful. But, on Snow White's 18th birthday, she becomes the fairest in the land, and the witch queen learns her only way to permanent youthfulness is by eating the young woman's heart. I told you. It's dark.

From there, the film turns into essentially a chase movie, with Snow White, who has escaped, as Willow and the horrible witch as, well, the horrible witch. The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) of the title shows up with his own baggage in tow. The monsters swoop in aplenty. The dwarfs are surprisingly not annoying as all hell. Everything seems to be clicking.

So why is there a feeling that it's nothing new? Because it's really nothing new when you boil it all down. Yes, there's a cool, edgy darkness to it all, something fans of Todd McFarlane might have displayed on their shelves. No, the creatures aren't groundbreaking in any sense, and the fleeting way in which they're used - one particularly cool monster shows up for a roar then disappears never to play into the story again - is only made more apparent by how dull it's all captured for our eyes.

Rupert Sanders, a commercial director for years who steps into his feature film making career here with a $100 million epic, doesn't bring any flair to the table. His dialogue scenes are very basic, one speaker after the other, nothing interesting occurring in the background to fill the frame. The action scenes throughout the film are standard movements back and forth with only a few key moments - a beach charge near the end of the film raises the bar on scope, but, again, it's only from two or three angles - standing out. It all reminds us of where we've seen those same shots with creatures who look similar to that in films before. Sanders' ability to really strike a chord with audiences was tested with this film, and, unfortunately, inexperience won.

And while that is a large chunk of what does or doesn't make Snow White and the Huntsman work, it isn't the whole, and there are certainly things to admire in the film. Most notably the dwarfs, the seven or eight - the film is kind of flaky on how many there are - miners Snow White and the Huntsman, who has taken her side after the queen orders him to kill her, encounter. The effects on the dwarfs' faces are seamless and give you a damn near flawless depiction at what Ian McShane or Bob Hoskins would look like were they little people. It's jarring at first, but quickly lets you embrace how fun it is. Ray Winstone's Gort is a favorite.

Turning the volume way past 11, Theron as Ravenna is doing everything she can not to literally slather butter on the set and start gnawing on it. She contorts her face to such extremes and seems to turn on her character's anger from somewhere deep in the soul. It falters into daytime melodramatic camp at times, more often than you'd expect, but Theron always pulls it back just before she loses you. While Stewart and Hemsworth are delivering fine, but nothing noteworthy, performances as the title characters, it's Charlize Theron as the villainous queen who commands something truly memorable. Is it good? That's for an acting coach to say, but it's more entertaining than Monster. That's for sure.

Wounded by a stab at its direction heart, Snow White and the Huntsman hobbles on in the capable hands of its visual effects artists, production designers, and cast. A film whose script went through three, different tear-downs and rebuilds, it plays as basic and as simple as you would expect from something that has a subpot about "the one." It tries too hard at awkward times to revisit and take left turns on the classic Snow White fairy tale, not enough times to ruin but more than it should. But, again, there's something in the way the details of the film are playing their hardest, working for a screenplay and a director who knows when something looks good. He just doesn't know how to show it to us in a new and exciting way. There's room to grow, and Snow White and the Huntsman could very easily go down as the introduction to the movie world to Rupert Sanders. He had a rough start. But it all ended up happily ever after…

Yeah. I did.

Jeremy's Rating: 6.5 out of 10

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No offense, but this review reads like it was written by a jealous and frustrated filmmaker.

Cringe on Jun 1, 2012


I love this website and Alex's posts and opinions, but I just can't seem to like any of this guys reviews, even if I agree with some things hes saying, he just makes such irrelevant points and has weird reasons for hating things.

Guy who comments on things on Jun 1, 2012


I like this review. Saw the midnight showing and was pretty tired so not Sure how I would feel if I was wide awake. Visually I loved everything about the film. However I felt the same way that Jerremy did about the direction and overall flow. I don't know anything about film making but I just felt something was missing. Not a Kristin Stewart fan but she was definitely tolerable in this. Wanted to really like this film, the trailers really had me excited but the action sequences were very short lived and nothing special. I will say again that how dark and gritty the film felt Is definitely worth seeing.

The wolf on Jun 1, 2012


Well, it's obviously just his own personal opinion that he gave here, so even though I sometimes don't agree with him, I can still respect that. This is one of the times where I do agree with Jeremy. I had pretty much the same impression of the movie. I didn't disect it in such great detail as he did, but I agree that it was visually absoutely beautiful; Charlize Theron was definitely the star of the show. Unfortunately, it was lacking in most of the other aspects. Still, it was by no means a terrible movie. I enjoyed it well enough, mostly because it was simply gorgeous to look at.

SuicidalOptimist on Jun 1, 2012


 Jeremy hasn't stopped complaining since his first review here. His opinion is merely that: his opinion. And as far as audiences are concerned, it doesn't count for much.

Guest3324 on Jun 1, 2012


Incredible Surprising Visionary Spectacular Epic Fantasy Fairy Tale Picture In every "Epic" movies (that I LOVE) one thing is important than the others : The Battle Yes I know in this flick there are good battle scenes,then it is ok for me, but I think any company don't must give huge projects to directorial debut !!! Even if the film hits . Because director creditebility can bring the money for them either ! Rupert Sanders is wonderful director but he must direct small project first! Snow white and Narnia Part 1 prove that Villain doesnt need to be man definitly ! Womans even can be better choises in it's time ! Charlize Theron is BOMB ! She get all looks to herself ! Short Peresence unfortunately but very effective , powerful , memorable , hot femme fatal , Completely Knouck Out ! Snow White for me is : Awesome But Not The Masterpiece Garland But Not The Crown Because The Beast Not Unleashed Yet Dudes : " Hobbit " it

Ehsan Davodi on Jun 1, 2012


This guy's reviews seem very pretentious and he does everything he can to get good use of his thesaurus. So my review of his review 3.5 out of 11 - because my scale goes to 11.

J. Todd on Jun 1, 2012


I was going to pull open my thesaurus and find a better word, but pretentious is prefect. I don't mind harsh reviews if they are earned, but this sounds like it was written by a disgruntled assistant editor mad about some stupid detail.

McWetty on Jun 1, 2012


Haters gonna hate. This review is spot on. 

DotaD on Jun 1, 2012


 Haters gonna hate.... ?? yeah..this review is a blockbuster...what a moron

Guest on Jun 3, 2012


I was very disappointed with it! it was very uneven and the character development wasn't that great!

Jcs012872 on Jun 1, 2012


Of course anybody can express their opinions, but it seems that anybody here understand what is a critic. You can answer a critic with another, your own point of view of the movie, but just criticise how is it written seems absurd. Perhaps for some is pretentious and for another is too simple. Everybody has an opinion, but as a reader of the page maybe I could be interested in your opinion of the movie, buy not at all in what you do think about the critic without oposing ant reason. It's boring. And cheap. Write your own critic and let us judge your style!

JM on Jun 1, 2012


I don't get people insulting others because of what they like or dislike. Besides, Jeremy's reviews are well written, you guys just seem to be jealous. Start your own blog, then we'll talk.

Davide Coppola on Jun 2, 2012


the edit was the biggest flaw. sad it had potential.

Boo on Jun 2, 2012


Every individual is different, thus so are each individuals opinions, I am usually very critical of films, and I felt like a kid watching this movie, it takes common themes we've seen so many times over the last decade, an ties them up with a perfect bow. Say what you will, but this film is beautiful, fun, simple and sweet!

Michael on Jun 3, 2012


I saw it last night.  Both my wife and I liked it for the most part.  The action sequences are definitely short. Theron is fantastic.  I do agree that the character development for Stewart and Hemsworth was a little lacking which left you with a little bit of a feeling that there could have been more to this movie that would've pushed it over the "liked it" mark to "loved it".  I never felt that it was a waste of money and was happy I saw it.

:) on Jun 4, 2012


beautiful film.  mediocre plot. 0 chemistry between huntsman & snow white.  Good twists here and there. Charlize, Spectacular!.  Kristin, officially sucked ass in my book.  She is like the modern Keanu Reeves with emotions.  Can somebody just stop casting this girl in movies please.  Here "into the wild" is not there anymore.  Super overrated.  Kristin-You sucked.

Vogue421 on Jun 5, 2012


K Stew's acting was laughable, the director did a good job of editing the 10 words she said together to make it less terri-bad. Bob Hoskins and the rest of the dwarf gang were great as was the Huntsman, Chazza Theron was decent too as was her dastardly brother, including his evil haircut, but K-Stew just mad ecrazy faces throughout. Hah ha.

Carpola on Nov 22, 2012

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