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Snow White and the Huntsman (Frank's take)

01/07/2012. Contributed by Frank Ochieng

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Favourite fairy tale lass Snow White is getting her fair share of attention at the box office lately. First, she is the subject of the slight and sugar-coated Tarsem Singh’s decorative dud Mirror, Mirror that sputtered more than anything else. Now our childhood diva is getting a more sinister, suggestive makeover in an edgier version of her retelling in the gritty and grainy Snow White and the Huntsman.

Filmmaker Rupert Sanders delightfully serves up a dark and doomsday take on the fictitious pretty pixie and her legendary exploits in a menacing melodrama that is devilishly subversive and stylish in its cynical storytelling. Imaginative, dastardly impish and wickedly whimsical, Snow White and the Huntsman is blessed with an entertaining mean streak down its moody back.

The gimmick is quite infectious in saturating the kiddie-coated image of good gal Snow White with a dour outlook drenched in macabre mysteriousness. This certainly puts to shame the conventional candy cane sentimentality that overshadowed the effectiveness of the aforementioned Mirror, Mirror. The performances, particularly by the Oscar-winning Charlize Theron as the opportunistic villainous vixen Ravenna, are piercing and soulful. Overall, Snow White and the Huntsman is a refreshing rehash of a classic children’s tale that dares to put a caustic spin of treachery and terror in its wake.

Sanders’s direction is crisp and inventive in the way he handles the biting material that echoes the guilty pleasure grime wallowing in blood and bombastic action-packed freakiness. Screenwriter Evan Daugherty incorporates elements of off-kilter horror, disdain, disillusionment and atmospheric darkness that propel Snow White and the Huntsman as a toxic odyssey worthy of its naughty nuances. No doubt that this raucous rendition is not your grandmother Mabel’s memory of Snow White or her diminutive buddies from yesteryear.

Naturally a solid fairy tale needs its bad seed element to cement the strength of the structured story. The gorgeous and conniving Ravenna (Theron) is indeed the stepmother from hell. She has been quite busy in building up her notorious reputation. First, she declares war and negatively impacts the residents of the wooded kingdom. Ravenna then sets her sights on the ruler (Snow White’s father) and marries him for symbolic status and power. Of course Ravenna seizes the opportunity to murder Snow White’s Daddy Dearest thus fulfilling her insidious plans to satisfy her wayward ego.

In the meanwhile, poor Snow White (Kristen Stewart from the Twilight film series) is locked away upon the spiteful request of the raging Ravenna. It does not help matter any that Ravenna’s trusty companion—her mirror—anoints Snow White as “the fairest in the land”. Already saddled with jealousy and hatred for her youthfully sweet stepdaughter, Ravenna wants Snow White’s head on a platter. The detestable queen realises that if she is to be immortalised she needs the one main ingredient that Snow White possesses which is her pure heart.

Soon, Snow White will escape the clutches of the scheming Ravenna and vanish into the woods. There, she is aided along by a drunken huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, “Marvel’s The Avengers”) as well as an assist by a stable friend (Sam Claflin). Shortly, Snow White will encounter more personalities to protect her safety from the queen in the form of several feisty dwarves. However, the reality is recognized by Snow White that in order for the whole kingdom to be liberated one thing certainly does ring loud and clear…that Ravenna needs to be eradicated once and for all.

Will the angelic Snow White and her perplexing posse have what it takes to tangle with the wretched Ravenna? Can Snow White maintain her innocence and ensure that her stepmother does not acquire any more power than necessary?

There is a crafty and colourful allure of seediness that is so delightfully demonstrated in Snow White and the Huntsman. The movie stays true to sticking with the fairy tale’s familiar motifs (i.e. the mirror, the poisoned apple, white horses, etc.) while tweaking the storyline with energising sombreness. The special effects are wondrous and give credence to the film’s visual vitality and tension-driven pulse.

As the film’s heroine, Stewart adds the right kind of magical malaise that feels credible for the angst-ridden Snow White. Hemsworth provides the playful muscle and mischievousness as the huntsman out to guard the damsel in distress. The casting of famous faces (Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, etc.) as the digitalized dwarves was quite interesting to say the least. The real hearty backbone to this massive mystical melodrama is Theron’s Ravenna, an attractive nuisance with an ugly agenda. She embodies the twisted spirit of an older woman wanting to reclaim her glory days far behind her.

Antagonistic and amusing, Snow White and the Huntsman is the fairest of all at the box office…at least according to the ineptitude of its tepid current competitors that pale in comparison.

Snow White and the Huntsman (Universal Pictures)
2 hrs. 5 mins.
Starring: Kristen Stewartm Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Ray Winstone, Sam Claflin, Bob Hoskins
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Genre: Fantasy & Adventure/Science Fiction/Drama/Horror

Critic’s Rating: *** stars (out of 4 stars)

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