Saturday 2 June 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) - Rupert Sanders

With his adaptation of the traditional fairy tale, and his cinematic debut, Rupert Sanders has fused the story of Snow White with the current trend for vampires and the gothic, casting Kristen Stewart in the titular role.

The plot follows the traditional tale in all its simplicity, yet relies on your prior knowledge and explains little - despite a lengthy exposition.  It settles for weaving the conventional elements into its twisted story that sees the huntsman becoming the princess's saviour rather than killer.  There's little dialogue, the few lines spoken as hackneyed as the tale itself.

But after all, this is a fairy tale and the visuals at least do provide some magic.  Sanders offers a dark fantasy realm that's as frightening as it is beautiful.  One scene in particular takes the typical concept of the princess at one with nature and creates an enchanting scene that's miles from a Disney cartoon.  As Snow White's quest to overthrow the Queen takes her deeper into the rabbit hole, so the visuals become more spectacular.  That said, the designs aren't especially original, clearly influenced by Tim Burton's work and del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth.

Yet the main purpose of the gothic visuals is, seemingly, to let Stewart into her comfort zone as she's stuck in morose Twilight mode.  Her princess is torn between a Joan of Arc-esque female warrior with dirt under her nails and a girl of compassion, ultimately delivering an unemotional performance.  By contrast, Charlize Theron is positively terrifying as the evil, bird-like Queen, a role that sees her taking on an icy persona similar to her simultaneous role in Prometheus.  Hemsworth's huntsman, meanwhile, is used for little more than eye candy and the love triangle between him, Snow White and Sam Claflin's William is underdeveloped and dissatisfying.

The film is stolen, however, by the dwarves, played in hilarious fashion by the likes of Ray Winstone and Nick Frost.  They inject some much needed humour into an otherwise slow-moving dirge so consumed with putting the grim into the Brothers Grimm, it fails to enchant its audience.