<Review by: Sailesh Ghelani>
Directed by Rupert Sanders. Starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Sam Claflin, Bob Hoskins, Sam Spruell.
Not expecting much from this remake of a classic fairy tale, especially after the slapstick, Bollywood-esque Mirror Mirror, I was utterly floored by this film. The stirring music, the enchanting imaginary world, the solid performances and sheer brilliant direction, all make Snow White & The Huntsman a modern classic.
I think I join many when I say I’m not a fan of Kristen Stewart (Snow White), owing to the fact that I despise the Twilight franchise with every cell in my blood. That being said, after watching Snow White & The Huntsman I had to give my hatred for her (which is probably a hatred for her character and Twilight) a rethink. Needless to say I was much more looking forward to Charlize Theron’s performance as the wicked stepmother Ravenna. Even Thor and The Avengers actor Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman) wasn’t really a draw, but yet again, another surprisingly good performance.
From the very start of Snow White & The Huntsman you are introduced to magical visuals, magnificent orchestral music and a story that seems familiar. We all know Snow White, the fairest in the land, daughter of a King who is cut down by his new dark wife who takes over the throne and in this case imprisons Snow White (Kristen Stewart). But Snow is ‘destined’ and escapes in to the Dark Forest. The mirror on the wall tells the evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) that only Snow’s beating heart will make her the most beautiful in the land. And so the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is despatched along with the queen’s molester albino brother (Sam Spruell) to retrieve her. But the huntsman soon has a change of heart.
So look, you think you know the story of Snow White, but first time movie director Rupert Sanders (he is a big shot ad director in the UK) and his writing team of Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini have crafted such a brilliant film that even though you know what happens next (or think you do) you are glued to the screen wondering what will spring forth from this enchanted dwelling where humans, beasts, fairies, trolls (a very King Kong/beautiful girl moment here) and dwarfs all roam in a land of death and decay that lies alongside a land of magic and wonderment.
I even forgot there were dwarfs in this story, until they finally appeared and then I was worried – what if this greatness dissolves in to slapstick comedy with little people talking funny and doing silly things. Ah, no my friends, there is comic relief and wit, but none of that silly stuff. If anything, the dwarfs add a unique and refreshing layer to this story (Bob Hoskins as one of the dwarfs is stellar). They’re not there merely for our amusement and no they’re not named Happy, Dopey, Grumpy etc.
The CGI in this film that is used to create some of the amazing effects – including the golden plate that plays the mirror and the pixies of a fairyland unlike any you have ever seen – is so real that you can’t help but gape in awestruck astonishment. A tear rolled down my eye. Not because I was sentimental or sad but because I felt privileged to be watching this film.
A colleague once told me that music could often make a good film great. James Newton Howard’s orchestral score does just that in Snow White & The Huntsman. Half the reviewers sat back during the end credits (superb visuals of ravens, knights and swords) that featured a lovely song and fabulous end creds score. “Just write great music and the rest will take care of itself,” Howard once said. How right he was. And what a difference an orchestra (hardly used nowadays, sadly) makes to a film’s story and in conveying nuances of emotion and environment.
Each and every one of the actors has performed admirably. Yes, they’ve taken it seriously; Snow White & The Huntsman is dark, ominous, twisted and sinister. But yet it is wonderfully magical, fantastic, moving, original and heart warming. The finale is a tad anti-climactic but far from disappointing. The backstory about Ravenna’s past and her seemingly vain need to appear young adds so much depth to her character showing you that in this case, beauty is far from skin deep.
I’ll have to watch the film again to make sure I’ve not been gushing without merit and to prove that it wasn’t just one of those days. But I’m quite sure I felt a lot better after watching this film than I have watching the last 100. Please watch it, not with high expectations but with an open mind and you will not be disappointed. Thank you Hollywood, for making me believe that you still have some originality left.
Note: So I watched this a second time at PVR Phoenix, Mumbai. The picture quality here was a bit grainy and fuzzy at times and I don’t know if they were using stereo sound. I still loved the film and would not give it less than 4 stars (though I’ve never been a fan of star ratings). Some people thought the story had a touch of Sleeping Beauty because of the whole kiss for Snow White to wake her from deathly slumber. Hello! Prince Charming… Don’t you know your fairy tales? One of the best fairy tale remakes out there, I loved it and the stars are mine to do with as I please (*menacing laugh*).
PS: Watch the Snow White & The Huntsman trailer above & Read our feature Fairy Tale Films Are Back With A Vengeance
Also, you could take part in our Snow White & The Huntsman Tickets/Poster Contest