Like all Brothers Grimm fairy tales, Snow White is a story that has been repackaged over and over again. So, you ask, what could first-time film director Rupert Sanders possibly bring to the table that we haven't seen before in Snow White and the Huntsman? The easy answer is: Visual effects. It seems as though no scene in the film is complete without an elaborate team of VFX artists and the studied cinematography of Greig Fraser (most noted for working on Bright Star). However, eye candy aside, Snow White and the Huntsman doesn't seem to serve any real purpose other than to cleanse us of this year's other Snow White offering, Mirror Mirror.
Co-written by Evan Daugherty (a fresh off the boat writer), John Lee Hancock (of The Blind Side fame), and Hossein Amini (whose voice seems the strongest based on how close to the tone of Drive this film is), the story tries its best to keep a balance between Snow White's (Kristen Stewart) and Queen Ravenna a.k.a. the Evil Queen's (Charlize Theron) respective plights, plus throw in the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, who has had a particularly momentous year with The Cabin in the Woods and Thor). With these three characters taking up equal amounts of face time, and the inclusion of every major plot point from the original fairy tale (Dark Forest, dwarves, poison apple, being awakened by true love's kiss), it is no small wonder that the film tops out at a slightly unbearable two hours and seven minutes.
Although the direction of the plot can come across as roundabout and protracted, one thing that can be said for Snow White and the Huntsman is the stance it lends to the notion of age and beauty, and how the two affect one another. From the very beginning, it is evident that Queen Ravenna holds nothing but contempt for the men and kings she has allured, seething, "Men use women and then throw them to the dogs for scrap." Hence, she feels no remorse over stabbing Snow White's father in the heart. Allowing Snow White her version of mercy by leaving her locked in a remote tower of the castle, Ravenna's reign leaves the kingdom desiccated and barren.
When Ravenna's looking glass reveals to her that, in order to remain the fairest in the land, she must cut out Snow White's beating heart and consume it, Ravenna immediately demands that her brother, Finn (Sam Spruell), to carry out her murder. Unfortunately for Finn, Snow White escapes from the castle and flees into the Dark Forest, a place that not even the bravest of souls dare venture. Furious, the queen enlists the services of the Huntsman, the only man who has ever come out of the forest with his mind and body still intact. In exchange, the queen assures him that she will bring his wife back from the dead.
Upon retrieving Snow White with Finn watching his every move, the Huntsman realizes that the queen will renege on her promise regardless of whether he brings Snow White to her or not. This tips the scales in favor of him aiding Snow White to get out of the forest in one piece. Along the way, the two naturally form a bond, what with running from enormous trees that come alive to chase after them and encountering seven dwarves: Beith (Ian McShane), Muir (Bob Hoskins), Quert (Johnny Harris), Coll (Toby Jones), Duir (Eddie Marsan), Gort (Ray Winstone), and Nion (Nick Frost). I suppose changing the names from Bashful, Doc, Dopey, Grumpy, Happy, Sleepy, and Sneezy is intended to lend a more sophisticated air to the story.
As Queen Ravenna continues to age more rapidly, her desperation for Snow White's heart intensifies, prompting her to disguise herself as Snow White's childhood friend, William (Sam Claflin, whose other major film role was Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides). Though it may not be true to the original version, wherein an old crone hands Snow White a poison apple, this method is just as effective. More effective, in fact, since I always thought Snow White was kind of a dumb bitch for taking an apple from a stranger. Once she bites into it, the poison takes immediate effect, leading the queen to shift back into her normal form and scream, "You have no idea how lucky you are never to realize what it is to be old." Before she can stab Snow White in the heart, William and the Huntsman come to her rescue.
Devastated, William perches over her and gives her a kiss (which is a little bit necromantic if you ask me). Even though William is in love with her, this is not the kiss that ultimately reawakens Snow White. Not quite ready to admit his feelings for her, the Huntsman can only express himself as Snow White lays on her deathbed (yet another exhibition of necromancy). Revitalized by the power of love, Snow White rises to lead the remaining members of her father's army to fight the queen.
It is at this juncture that you especially wish the film would just end already. But alas, it doesn't and Snow White makes her way slowly to the castle where Queen Ravenna calmly awaits her. During their final showdown, Theron proves once again that she has chosen the most meaningful character to play as Queen Ravenna declares, "I will give this wretched world the queen it deserves." In other words, the world is shit, so why shouldn't I be? Naturally, Snow White defeats her and is inaugurated as queen, yet, in an almost maddening, Bollywood-like choice, she does not kiss the Huntsman at her coronation, but rather, just stares at him knowingly. This is the only subtle moment of the film and perhaps the most irksome. I demand another remake with Madonna as the queen and Lady Gaga as Snow White (with all costumes designed by Alexander McQueen).