Snow White gets reinvented, reimagined, and reinvigorated in the darkly thrilling new incarnation from director Rupert Sanders. The film is good – in fact, surprisingly good – because it makes the onscreen journey about Snow White’s bid to survive the murdering hand of her Evil Stepmother, instead of the usual tripe about finding and falling in love with Prince Charming (or, in this case, Prince William). It’s a story that revels in the terrors of being hunted and how the desire to escape the clutches of a Mad Queen transforms Snow White from Victim to Heroine.
You all know the basic plotline, so I won’t spend much time repeating it. There are a few differences of note from the traditional tale in this version, however, namely that the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is given a leading role, as is his fabled transformation at discovering how pure Snow White (Kristen Stewart) really is. He doesn’t refrain from killing her because she is so “innocent” as the original tale has us believing. The Huntsman in this film cannot kill Snow White because he cannot kill Snow White. She is too good at escaping, too wily a target. His mission to murder becomes a lesson in humility and even awe.
The film also takes special time in reinventing the Seven Dwarves, who are in this instance the Eight Dwarves – that is, until one of them dies and leaves them with the usual lot. These dwarves are not the merry band of juvenile grandfathers we know from the Disney classic: they are rough, gruff, loud, and often times prickly and unpleasant. But hey, it’s nothing Snow White cannot handle.
It also bears mentioning that the film includes an astonishing sequence in which Snow White and the Hunstsman stumble upon the Forbidden Forest and discover its untold treasures, including fairies, pixies, talking vegetation, and a majestic White Stag who reigns over the forest. An obvious homage to the Disney animated classic, this scene stands out for the sheer wonder of its visuals.
Above all, however, the movie belongs in every inch of the screen to the powerful performance given by Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen. She is more than just another icy and vainglorious monarch with a Draconian heart: she is the living embodiment of Heartlessness, hell-bent on destroying Snow White to preserve her own domain as monarch and as the land’s reigning beauty. She converses with magic mirrors, bathes in the blood of virgins, and bids others to kill and be killed at her whim. Yeah . . . yikes.
The film is from the producers of Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland which means that the climax has been supplanted with a CGI battle sequence. Whether or not this is appropriate I will leave others to judge. It’s fair to say, however, that for the first time ever we get to see Snow White wield a sword, square off against the Queen, and generally kick butt. It’s more a testimony to current Hollywood trends than a reimagining of Snow White as a feminist fantasy who has her own agency and can save others.
Still, she’s a character you won’t forget any time soon. Definitely worth checking out.
Here are a few stills: