While nothing can ever touch the original Disney classic, “Snow White and the Seven Dwarves,” the newest cinematic interpretation of the Snow White story, “Snow White and the Huntsman" boasts stunning visuals and a great, fiery performance by Charlize Theron, who is on a serious mean streak.
The story is well known, but never has it been weaved together with such dark, oozing threads as in this movie. King Magnus (Noah Huntly) has a beautiful daughter named Snow White (Kristin Stewart). After his wife dies, the king soon becomes bewitched by a sinister, mysterious woman named Ravenna (Charlize Theron). The two marry, and on their wedding night, Ravenna stabs the king in the chest as her dark army takes over the kingdom.
Snow White is imprisoned in a tower for many years, as Ravenna controls the kingdom and spreads fear and darkness across the land. Both a powerful sorceress and a deeply vain, cursed woman, she must at all costs maintain her youth and beauty, even if it means sucking the life out of other young girls around the kingdom.
When her mirror tells her, one day, that she is no longer going to be the fairest of them all if Snow White continues to live, she unsuccessfully tries to have the girl killed. But Snow White escapes, and for the remainder of the film, Ravenna frets in her chambers, worrying about her waning beauty while a hired huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) betrays the Queen and tries to protect Snow White from a grisly fate.
There are also seven or eight dwarves, all drunken warriors who remember better times and who are willing to help Snow White. They are played some terrific British actors, including Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones. The magic of CGI makes their faces familiar but their statures unrecognizably small.
From the hallucinatory dark forest fueled by fear, to a beautifully crafted enchanted forest full of jaw-dropping images, the visual effects in this movie consistently manage to fascinate. Even some of the simplest elements of the Snow White story are unfolded in striking, original ways, including the “mirror, mirror” scenes, which give the mirror an actual presence on screen, oozing across the floor and forming into an ominous being reminiscent of the T-1000 in “Terminator 2.”
Stewart, now completely free of “Twilight,” does some good work here as a Snow White you don’t want to mess with, and Hemsworth has fun with the brawny Huntsman seeking redemption from his sad past, but with her intense glare and volatile temperament, Theron steals the show in every way imaginable. She brings the same intensity to this fairy tale villain that she brought to her equally unstable and vain character in last year’s “Young Adult.”
“Snow White and the Huntsman” is the second of two Snow White movies to be released this year. The first was Tarsem Singh’s “Mirror, Mirror,” unseen by me. It is interesting when, every so often, movies come in thematic pairs. More interesting is that Tarsem is an accomplished cinematic visionary whose visuals tend to overpower his stories, while Rupert Sanders, director of this movie, is a newcomer who, from a decent but flawed screenplay by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and “Drive” screenwriter Hossein Amini, succeeds in telling a fresh version of the Snow White story that is peppered with wonderful visual effects. Daugherty channels the darkness that was always there, and brings it closer to the surface of a fairy tale that almost always is a pleasure to behold.