The Basics of the Story:
Snow (Kristen Stewart) has been trapped in a castle since her evil stepmother, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), killed her father and took over her kingdom. Escaping prison on the day the Queen has called for her death, Snow White is tracked down in the Dark Forest by the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) who, realizing the Queen's lying when she promised to bring back his dead wife, opts to save Snow rather than turn her over.
The two prove to be a formidable team, and once they meet up with the dwarfs, there's no stopping them. Battles rage, mythical creatures put in appearances, and it turns out Snow White is the savior everyone has been waiting for - the one person who can end the rule of the evil Queen.
The Acting and Bottom Line:
Kristen Stewart has very limited dialogue as Snow White, but what she does deliver is spoken with a passable British accent. And while she never appeared as fierce as director Rupert Sanders likely intended her to come across as the story progressed, Stewart was better here than in the Twilight films. Stewart failed to become the rebel leader figure necessary to sell the dopey inspirational fight speech she was saddled with, and what should have been Snow's big moment turned out to be a real momentum-killer. And, as with the Twilight films, Stewart has zero on screen chemistry with her male co-stars, including Sam Claflin as the prince who's loved her his entire life.
Chris Hemsworth, best known for playing Thor in Thor and The Avengers, did a terrific job of swapping Thor's hammer for an axe and playing the conflicted Huntsman still devoted to his deceased wife. Hemsworth seems at home with larger-than-life characters, and his Huntsman was the character audiences could most emotionally connect with due to his ability to bring this sort of reluctant hero to life.
As for those dwarfs, Rupert Sanders opted not to cast actors of diminutive stature in the roles and instead went with a high-quality crew of recognizable actors to play the roles. Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Brendan Gleeson, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, and Eddie Marsan became the dwarfs via CG magic. These non-dwarfs were seamlessly integrated into scenes, with the only downside to their performances being that they're given far too little to do once they're introduced into the story.
Charlize Theron was obviously intensely committed to making Queen Ravenna into not just a one-dimensional evil caricature but instead a fleshed out troubled - and psychotic - narcissistic woman who places no value on the lives of others. Alternating between cool and collected and a raging evil witch, Theron's performance outshines her co-stars and is the glue that holds the film together.
While the production design is first-rate and the CG effects are spectacular, Snow White and the Huntsman has a sluggish middle act that nearly kills the entire film. Rupert Sanders, making his feature film directorial debut, is apparently aiming for a Lord of the Rings-ish Snow White tale, however he didn't have a script that would allow him to live up to that desire. There's not much actually going on with the story, and the middle of the film suffers because of it.
Snow White and the Huntsman has arresting visuals, but it takes more than fancy effects and gorgeous costumes to make a story this classic and beloved a must-see addition to the collection of fairy tale-inspired films. Lacking romance, character development, and sluggishly paced, Snow White and the Huntsman is a near miss that had tremendous potential.
Snow White and the Huntsman was directed by Rupert Sanders and is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality.
Theatrical Release: June 1, 2012