Snow White and the Huntsman (Universal Pictures, PG-13)

film huntsman 75The dwarves provide needed comic relief while still working as tough guys whose bad sides you’d want to avoid.

 

film huntsman 500

Fairytales on the big screen are usually reserved for animated interpretations, and the few attempts at live-action stories we’ve seen have left a lot to be desired. Lucky for us, Snow White and the Huntsman may have finally broken the curse of the live-action fairytale.

After being locked away by evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) for many of her formative years, Snow White (Kristen Stewart) escapes her dank tower cell and manages to flee into the dark woods. Ravenna hires Eric (Chris Hemsworth), a huntsman who is the only known man in her kingdom to survive the perilous woods, to hunt Snow down and bring her back alive. Once Eric realizes the queen has hired him under decidedly false pretenses, though, he changes his mind, and things get far more adventurous.

I hope Snow White and the Huntsman doesn’t suffer due to being the second Snow White film of 2012, because the film is pretty damn great and deserves to be seen. This Snow is a darker, Grimm-style fairytale that bears just enough resemblance to the Mouse House version to keep the story’s touchstones alive.

The movie is filled with stunning visuals. Snow and Eric battling the most badass bridge troll I’ve ever seen on film. Ravenna’s beloved mirror answering her as a liquid gold being. The bright-eyed fairies of the forest who help lead Snow to her destiny. There’s no shortage of brilliant things to look at. In some films, that often means the story suffers—but this one doesn’t.

The filmmakers benefit, of course, from the fact that most of us know the basic story already; they manage, though, to change things up enough to keep it interesting. Eric, for instance, isn’t a cruel bounty hunter, but a grieving widow who finally finds something to believe in again when he decides to help Snow. And the eight dwarves (you read that right) provide needed comic relief while still working as tough guys whose bad sides you’d want to avoid.

For the most part, the performances also hit just the right note. There’s no effort here to make the characters anything but real people in a seemingly impossible situation. And this fits perfectly with the visual world that’s on screen.

Stewart doesn’t lean too hard on Snow’s pure of heart and “fairest of them all” qualities. She makes Snow White seem like a real young woman who’s fighting to be strong in the face of some very real fear and comes away better for the challenge.

Hemsworth brings his usual tough-guy zeal to Eric, while also lending him a very human edge to make the man knowable. The huge heart beneath the rough exterior is easy to imagine.

Theron is the only one of the main and supporting cast who overplays a bit here and there. Her evil queen won’t take you spinning out of the atmosphere that’s been created, but you will notice a few moments of camp. Even so, Theron gives us glimpses of how Ravenna has lived with her powers. It’s obvious after a while that her gift is also her curse. | Adrienne Jones

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