"Beauty is my power."
Once upon a time, in a far, far away land, Kristen Stewart was the fairest of them all, and hunkie Chris Hemsworth was smitten with her. And Charlize Theron was a wicked queen, insanely jealous of Stewart's beauty. Yeah, this must be fairy tale.
Well, kinda. It's the basis of the newest reimagining of the Snow White tale, Snow White and the Huntsman (not to be confused with its distant cousin, Mirror, Mirror). Twilight's Stewart attempts to shed her teeniebopper image to take on the title role as the ultimate damsel in distress. After the murder of her father by her maniacal youth-obsessed stepmother, Ravenna (Charlize Theron), Snow White is locked away in the castle's tower as a prisoner. Years go by until Snow White is finally able to flee from her stepmother's evil grasp into the dark forest.
When Ravenna learns of her escape, she haughtily demands the local drunkard and huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to go find the princess and bring her back to her clutches so that she steal her youth and take her life.
In a series of never-fully-executed action scenes, the huntsman learns of Snow White's true identity and vows to protect her from her stepmother and her nefarious men, including her brother Finn (Sam Spruell).
The beginning of the movie is extremely engaging, mostly due to Theron's dead-on embodiment of vileness. She takes her Mavis Gary character from Young Adult and arms her with heinous powers and magical spells, equips her with a disturbing self-obsession, to make her a true menace to society, frightening everyone in her path.
But once Snow White and the huntsman get lost in the woods, the film begins to drag a bit. Particularly, there is a segment where the dwarfs with whom they align recognize her as "the one" (kinda reminiscent of The Matrix) after an extravagant special effects nature sequence which can only be described as Avatar meets something on the Discovery channel. We're talking floral births, unexplained little martian-like men, and an enchanting unicorn. This is all beautiful and incredibly striking, but it takes you out of the story for that near half hour. That said, the movie could have been about 100 minutes long, rather than its 127-minute run time.
Aside from that, we're supposed to believe Snow White was able to later adapt these kickass fighting skills to take on the loathsome yet strong queen in an epic battle? Not from the quick tutorial the hunstman gave her that one time. In a pivotal scene in the movie, when the huntsman encourages Snow White to be more skillful at fighting, we only see him show her how to block a hit (not to employ an army, carry a sword and take down the repugnant queen as she does later in the movie). In fact, Snow White didn't have much practice fighting as the huntsman came to her rescue every time she was in danger. I guess we'll just assume she and the huntsman got in a brief lesson during one of the movie's off moments.
And speaking of Stewart's Snow White, the actress seemed a bit....confused about which emotions she should have during certain scenes. Unfortunately, she's just not overly convincing as the character. She has some fleeting moments of raw emotion, but, overall, she doesn't dive into the role as effortlessly as Hemsworth, Theron and even Spruell do. They act circles around her often times. In another important scene towards the end, Stewart delivers an uncomfortably unpersuasive monologue meant to rile her soldiers for revenge. But it failed to excite much passion in the audience.
Thankfully, the rest of the cast is quite impressive, and are able to counterbalance Stewart's weaker moments. Spruell wreaks of crazy, perfect for the queen's second in command. Hemsworth also steps up to the plate to portray a man who's much more than a huntsman.
The dramatic effects and epic battle scenes are also quite stunning to watch and quickly seduce the audience from the opening credits. The score by James Newton Howard (The Sixth Sense, The Fugitive) is also seductive and appropriately dark at the right times. First-time director Ruper Sanders made an impressive debut with a massive feature that had some really exquisite moments at times. Not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination, Snow White and the Huntsman can boast truly magnificent performances--minus Stewart, of course--an interesting take on a beloved tale, and gorgeous scenes. Too bad about some of that plot though.