Snow White And The Huntsman

Director Rupert Sanders' sublime visuals are let down by a messy script.

Snow White And The Huntsman

The Snow White adaptation that many were looking forward to, Rupert Sanders’ Snow White and the Huntsman is a lavish, sweeping fantasy film that delivers on remarkable visuals but suffers several fatal flaws that keep it firmly in three-star territory.

Being based on such a famous tale makes the plot a familiar one – Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is imprisoned by her stepmother, the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who rules the kingdom with an iron fist. Escaping, she is pursued by Ravenna’s henchmen, joined by a good-hearted huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) who leads her through the land in a quest to overthrow the tyrannical Queen.

This is Sanders’ feature debut, and from the very first frames the commercials director’s eye for a shot is clear – the film looks absolutely beautiful. It is easy to spot where the huge budget went, as we are shown stunning effects work, elaborate, huge-scale sets and some truly striking make-up work. Unfortunately, the plotting takes a hit in favour of this, and we do end up skimming over some key plot points without even Hemsworth’s voiceover to guide us.

Sanders really gets a chance to show what he can do with one or two early battle sequences, as the action is so well directed it deserves to be surrounded by a far better film. Where the director does fall down though, is in his handling of the story – which to be fair is hamstrung from the start by a cack-handed script which feels far too crowded for many characters to register (Sam Claflin’s loyal prince, William, is a massively underused character, but there is simply no room for him).

The screenplay really is unbalanced, with several completely redundant story strands taking up valuable time, which could have been used to develop the characters beyond their archetypes. Hemsworth’s Huntsman, for example, goes from mead-swilling layabout to brave and noble warrior with no arc whatsoever, while the film spends far too much time on a fairy tale strand that fizzles out with no discernible purpose. Even the dwarves seem short-changed here, with Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, Bob Hoskins and company a real missed opportunity, given nowhere near enough screen time after they are introduced over halfway in.

The cast are a very mixed bag, with Hemsworth’s rugged, easy charisma carrying the film for much of the middle act, not particularly helped by Stewart. Stewart is by no means awful, but is just a little too bland for the part of warrior princess – it’s nothing new to accuse the Twilight star of underacting, but it’s difficult to deny that her leading man carries her a little here. Theron puts in a wildly fluctuating performance, veering between sinister poise and wild-eyed fury, via some cringe-inducing line readings that are just plain puzzling to watch. It’s difficult to label this as a good or bad performance, but it is certainly a bizarre one, and leaves a hole for the hour or so that she disappears from the movie.

Perhaps the biggest disappointment of all is the final battle sequence, which feels so rushed that we hardly notice it. The warring throngs are always out of focus in the background, diminishing any sense of scale that had previously been worked up to, and is a curiously dull note for the film to finish on.

Snow White and the Huntsman, then, is a luxurious fantasy epic, big on scale and production values, but light on character development, story and performances. Hemsworth continues a good run, but some serious script polishing was needed here. It’s a real shame that Sanders is let down by the screenplay he has to work with, as the director shows real ability - it will be interesting to see what his next move is.