Kristen Stewart plays a Snow White for the modern age, she will not cook, clean or flounce demurely in long flowing dresses. She will inspire, heal a wounded land and be a leader of men in Rupert Sanders’ fantastic directorial debut, Snow White and the Huntsman.
I would imagine that the recent success of Game of Thrones and its style was very much in Sanders’ mind when he went about undertaking the classic Grimm brother’s tale of Snow White. It is more easily aligned with Thrones or Ladyhawke than the 1937 Walt Disney animated version Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
The core (apple, get it ?) elements are there, Snow White is imprisoned in a tower by her evil step mother Queen who then hires a huntsman to kill her, the huntsman frees her, she happens upon some dwarfs. There are all the other trimmings too; a magic mirror, a prince, apple trickery yada yada yada. Now what makes Snow White so enjoyable for me was the unfolding of the story in this magical world created by Sanders. He has set out with his team to make his own unique vision for this most well known of fairy tales.
Kristen Stewart takes on the role of Snow White and gives it her own unique feel. She must be strong and determined, while at the same time throw back to our traditional views of a princess who is at one with nature with an almost magic touch. Her performance won’t win over any new fans especially those who weren’t enamoured with her in the Twilight saga but she holds her own and is believable as a hesitant but caring heroine who struggles to come to terms with her destiny.
The other side of the fairy tale coin is the wicked step mother. Charlize Theron seems like she was born to play the psychotic Queen held captive by the prison of youth. The role demands large grandstanding rants and facially emotive outbursts which if handled incorrectly can creep into the hammy overacting genre quite easily. Luckily for Theron she controls it well and skirts this fine line with ease. Special mention must be given to Colleen Atwood the Oscar-winning costume designer for the various dresses that Theron gets to wear which are visually astounding.
It isn’t all about the women with Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman in probably his best role to date. Those of you not living under a rock will realise you’ve seen Chris before as the jock from The Cabin in the Woods and as Thor in the Marvel comic adaptations. He seems to be on a roll these days and this is another feather to his bow. He plays the troubled, strong, silent type with ease and injects much of the humour into the film. Most of the other male characters are merely window dressing which is fine, as with such strong leads much else isn’t necessary.
The best of the rest are the dwarfs which are all played by non-dwarf actors who are shrunk down by way of visually trickery and face replacement. I won’t spoil the surprise of who plays them but each are excellent in their own way. I will fly the flag though and mention Brian Gleeson who plays Gus, the son of Irish institution Brendan. Only being on screen for a short time he instills the film with a great amount of heart and purpose.
As I said at the start Sanders’ great achievement is the fantasy world he has created, from the frights and horrors of the forest to the majesty and beauty of the land of the fairies. He doesn’t shy away from the more scary elements of the tale with some of the scenes surely on the higher end of the 12A certificate. As far away from the Disney version as you could go surely the brothers Grimm would be much more approving. The film is quite a feminist piece at heart and raises many questions regarding the role of women and what is expected of them with both Kristen and Charlize fighting their respective corners.
A throwback to the fantasy films of old it can hold its head up high and count itself among the greats alongside Willow, The Never Ending Story and Labyrinth.
USA / Directed By: Rupert Sanders / Written By: Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, Hossein Amini / Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron / 100min / Action, Adventure / Release: 1 June 2012 (US/Canada/Irl/UK)