A while ago I wrote a blog about how I was fed up with fairytale revisionism, citing this year’s two Snow White movies. However, I should probably ‘fess up that I’m currently loving the fairytale show Once Upon A Time, which is frankly amazing and that I saw this Snow White retelling on Monday. Willingly.
The story starts off familiarly- Snow White is the King’s daughter, and loved throughout the land. After her mother’s death, her father winds up rescuing a mysterious woman, Ravenna (Charlize Theron) from a dark army, instantly falling for her beauty and marrying her.
Ravenna bumps off the king on their wedding night and allows her army to storm the castle. Snow White is captured and locked in the highest tower. Ravenna takes control of the country, which quickly goes to hell and maintains her powers by sucking the youth and beauty out of various unfortunate young girls (including the lovely Lily Cole). When Snow White (Kristen Stewart) comes of age, Ravenna’s magic mirror tells her to off the princess and she will remain young forever.
Snow manages to escape when Ravenna’s brother, Finn (Sam Spruell) tries to cop a feel and flees the castle, losing Finn and his men in the dark forest.
Angered, Ravenna charges Eric (Chris Hemsworth), an embittered, drunkard huntsman, to find Snow and bring her back. Promising to bring his wife back from the dead. However, Eric realizes he’s going to be double crossed and with Snow they head off to find the resistance, who Snow promises will pay him handsomely for delivering her.
Along the way Eric teaches her how to defend herself and they encounter seven dwarves, Snow’s old childhood friend William (Sam Claflin) and one extremely bad apple. Can Snow overthrow Ravenna and restore the kingdom?
I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed this flick. They tweak the story in quite a smart way and create this fun fantasy romp. By turning Snow into this inspirational figure who galvanizes the resistance, I was skeptical about Kristen Stewart donning the armour, as in the trailer she didn’t look as though she could fight her way out of a paper bag, but thankfully the filmmakers do it so that she’s not instantly transformed into a Xena figure at the end, but rather maintain her fragility and inexperience throughout.
When she does throw down against Ravenna in the final act its more about strength of character and heart than a physical contest. I know that sounds really cheesy, and the film may be too soppy for some, but I’m a soft git, so I really dug it. The fight at the end is fairly short, and not filled with acrobatic kung fu, instead being finished with a simple, believable move that anyone could do.
Stewart is really good in this movie, which was a real surprise to me, as I’d only previously seen her moping through Twilight. In that film I couldn’t understand why every bloke in her new town went ga-ga for her, but here the filmmakers do a great job, shooting her in a way that conveys the magical quality she’s meant to possess.
She’s undeniably beautiful, and Stewart conveys this wonderful mix of purity, fragility and sweetness. It makes the way the other characters respond to her extremely believable, without sounding too sexist, she’s the kind of woman you feel you should be protecting and could instantly fall for.
As good as Stewart is, this is definitely Charlize Theron’s film.
Theron is mesmerizing as the evil queen, Ravenna. She plays the character with this cold, steely edge. She’s flat out gorgeous but creates this genuinely threatening presence on screen.
Shown to be an embittered woman who knows the doors her looks open for her, but is aware of what will happen when they fade, Theron makes the character oddly sympathetic at times. Ravenna is evil, but scarred by her past experiences and desperate to maintain her power. She is the perfect mirror to the sweet, fragile Snow- a bitter, hardened woman, both beautiful, but with Ravenna’s beauty used as a weapon, while Snow’s is used to inspire good feeling in others.
Also doing great work is Hemsworth as the huntsman, he brings this muscular charisma to the role and from his first appearance is an engaging, likable presence. I even thought his Scottish accent was alright. The character, a haunted, desperate man who drowns his misery with booze is really engaging, and I really liked the relationship between him and Snow.
The rest of the cast do their jobs fairly well, and special praise must go to the dwarves. The seven include Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Ian McShane and Nick Frost and they’re entertaining and charming as the roguish dwarves who throw their lot in with Snow.
The only weak link in the film is the character of William. His introduction had me worrying he was on hand to fulfill the Prince Charming role, but he’s a bit of a non-entity. In fact the character doesn’t even make sense within the film, in a neat twist its as William that Ravenna disguises herself as to deliver the poison apple, but prior to the fruit delivery Snow kisses him, which comes out of nowhere and doesn’t quite work. They have little chemistry with each other, and surely, with Hemsworth’s huntsman being right there noone else would get a look in.
I really loved the look of this film, with Theron sporting some wonderfully over the top costumes and the set design team doing great work. There’s a bleak grimness to the ravaged kingdom, and a dark, nightmarish sequence in the dark forest which is wonderfully realised. There’s also the slightly twee sanctuary, which is most like a traditional fairytale scene and where Snow White’s beauty and magical quality shines through the best.
There’s also an interesting part where Snow and the huntsman hide out in a town where all the men have gone to fight and the women have all scarred their faces to protect themselves from the Queen’s attention.
I also loved how there was a bit of an ick factor to some of the magic, particularly Ravenna’s shape-shifting. And I also liked the fact that when gearing up for the fight we see Ravenna surrounded by withered girls who’s energy and beauty she has sapped.
The theme of beauty runs through the film, and is handled in quite interesting ways. Ravenna knows how much of an asset her beauty is, and Snow’s helps her as well. It kind of reflects how important female beauty is in society, but their are other nods to beauty throughout.
One of the most interesting twists is the fact that when Ravenna is talking to the magic mirror, and then the scene is shown from Finn’s perspective and Ravenna appears to be talking to herself. Its a nice touch and kind of shows how insecurities and feeling ugly can often have more to do with what’s going on in your head as opposed to what’s shown in the mirror.
Verdict: A nice twist to the story, and quite a lot of fun. Charlize Theron steals the show, but Hemsworth and the dwarves also do extremely well, and Stewart is a revelation. At times a little soppy, but for the most part it works. 7/10
Any thoughts? You know what to do. BETEO