Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Snow White, armored and battle-ready

(From the June 16-30 issue of The Fortnightly)
By Oliver M. Pulumbarit

The second film this year to reinterpret the Brothers Grimm’s classic creation, Snow White and the Huntsman reinvents the fairy tale princess into an action heroine, grittier than the proactive version from the rom-com Mirror Mirror a few months back.

This is a dark, almost humorless adventure in the vein of epic fantasy flicks from the last decade. It also bears little resemblance to the classic Disney film; there are big climactic showdowns between thunderous armies, as prominently seen in its trailers. The familiar characters are still there, but it’s visually busier and effects-heavier than older translations.

Charlize Theron plays the elegant but duplicitous Queen Ravenna, the unflinching conqueror of kings and kingdoms. Twilight’s Kristen Stewart plays her stepdaughter Snow White, imprisoned for years since Ravenna’s rise to power.

The princess’ inevitable escape leads to the Queen’s hiring of the grieving huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth), who must retrieve the young woman from the mystical Dark Forest. When word of Snow White’s plight spreads, her childhood friend Prince William (Sam Claflin) sets off to rescue her, infiltrating the Queen’s forces as the newly hired archer.

This iteration of the vain Queen benefits a little from the brief backstory. She’s made extra-expressive by Theron, whose menacing facial contortions and more subtle gestures help create an intimidating presence.

Stewart, meanwhile, sometimes reverts to Twilight mode, becoming emotionally blank at certain points. But thankfully, she gets to properly emote and assert her character’s fury at the right moments.

And in-demand Hemsworth, who just starred in recently released films Avengers and The Cabin in the Woods, is credible as the weary but noble bounty hunter. The character gets repetitive, though, and his supposedly tragic history doesn’t really elicit sympathy.

Some interesting elements are woven in, like the magical creatures that aid and declare Snow White’s importance in the scheme of things. However, those and other seemingly crucial ideas are forgotten later. It’s hard not to be baffled by the squandered possibilities.

Still, the much-trumpeted battle sequences look good. The reimagining, despite its flaws, still works as a visually dazzling popcorn flick. And Snow White, armored and determined to kick usurper butt, gets to unleash her inner warrior-woman. 

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