Derivative But Still Entertaining
Director Rupert Sanders, making his feature debut on a screenplay by Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hanc*ck, maintains a murky and gritty narrative that stretches over more than two bottom-numbing hours. Yes, it's somewhat like taking the Grimm tale into "Game Of Thrones" territory, complete with lofty cliffs and expansive snowy locales.
This alternate version set in medieval Europe has a witch named Ravenna (Charlize Theron) as the evil stepmother who kills the king on their wedding night, seizes the throne and imprisons Snow White (Kristen Stewart) in a tower dungeon. Somehow, Snow White manages to escape not to the woods but to the Dark Forest where the queen's magic has no effect.
To get Snow White back, the queen and her beloved brother (Sam Spruell) 'hire' a nameless Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down. Meanwhile, Snow White's former childhood playmate (Sam Clafin as William) is also looking for her, setting up the love triangle that Stewart of the "Twilight Saga" is now so famous for. What about the Dwarfs? you ask. Well, they come in rather late in the movie - and none are whistling while they work. They do sing, surprisingly.
On the plus side, I like the breath-taking landscapes and fantasy sets that remind us of those in "Lord Of The Rings" and "Princess Mononoke". These help to ground the fantasy with a touch of credulity besides enhancing the movie's eye-candy value. Ditto that for the fabulous costumes by Colleen Atwood.
I also like the way the dwarfs (eight here, not the usual seven) are being portrayed by top British stars the likes of Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Johnny Harris, Brian Gleeson and Toby Jones who are computer-digitized to look half their size. They provide comic relief and a touch of rough humour in an otherwise solemn and brooding film.
As for the minuses, the most outstanding is Kristen Stewart whose range of expressions alternates between pouting petulance and silent rage. In other words, she is still playing Bella Swan here. Well, one can easily argue that her Snow White probably gets that attitude after being shut up in the dungeon for so many years. I am inclined to give her the benefit of the doubt, having seen her play the audacious teen rocker Joan Jett in "The Runaways". I believe she can act better if directed to do so. Theron is good although she tends to overact, bursting into her evil rages ever so often; and Hemsworth provides the beefcake moments.
My other gripe is the overstretched length of the film in which the film-makers try their utmost to provide character psycho-analyses for the evil Queen and even the Huntsman. This is quite unnecessary in a popular fairy tale and it just cramps the movie with too much baggage. All in all, it is a derivative but highly watchable fare. Full review and pictures at limchangmoh.blogspot.com.