Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-ray review

You know what the world doesn’t need? Yet another dark re-imagining of classic Brothers Grimm fairytales. And yet on June 1st, 2012 North America saw the release of Snow White and the Huntsman, which will be coming out on Blu-ray and DVD this Tuesday, September 11th. The movie stars Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth as Snow White, the evil Queen Ravenna, and Eric the Huntsman respectively. And oh dear god does it ever suck.

I first saw this marathon of a film in theatres, and it sadly did not get any better when I watched it the second time around for this review. I call the film a marathon not necessarily for its long running time (2 hours, 12 minutes), as there are tons of films with longer film reels than this one, but because it feels much, much longer than it really is. This is mostly due to the films atrocious pacing; it often drags on with scenes that, while interesting in theory, are dull in execution and it’s as much the director’s fault as it is the script’s. There are a lot of scenes of Ravenna just being evil because she’s the villain and the audience is supposed to fear her. The script makes an effort to tie all these scenes back to the main plot, but it still comes across as clumsy and slow. The movie also seems to forget the number one rule of film, which is “show, don’t tell.” Exposition dumps seem to happen every other scene and most of the running length is just the characters talking, which wouldn’t be so bad if they were actual characters being played by real actors.

One of the biggest problems with adapting fairytales for film is that fairytale characters are very one dimensional; the villain is evil, the hero is pure, and that’s it. There’s not much for even a talented actor to play with if you don’t make some dramatic changes. However, Snow White as a character is entirely defined by her pure heart and her inability to be corrupted by evil. While she may be a warrior babe commanding her own army in the film’s climax, she’s still boring because she has no real personality. A character who we know cannot be tempted by the rewards of evil has no inner conflict. They will always do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do, end of conversation. And especially when you cast Kristen Stewart in that role, you’ve created a horrible melange of boring.

I refuse to let this review jump on the “let’s-hate-on-K-Stew” bandwagon, but she is not a strong actress. I’ve yet to see her handed a very strong character, so I can’t comment on whether or not she can give a better performance when the writing is good, but she is extremely flat and dull in this film. She doesn’t bring much to the role other than the ability to put the butts of Twilight fans in seats, which is probably the entire reason she was cast. Charlize Theron, however, is a great actress, but you wouldn’t know it from watching this movie. Theron seems to only do three things in her scenes: plot while she tenses her lower eyelids to look more menacing, mourn the loss of her youth and beauty like a bad soap opera character, or scream bloody murder and look batshit crazy and all in a voice that sounds like she’s performing bad high school Shakespeare. It’s no wonder Theron reports that she lost her voice during filming, she spends half of it yelling so loud you’d think she was trying to be heard over a Deadmau5 concert. And none of it’s acting, she’s simply playing a role and going through the motions of the “evil queen.” While it may be to children, it’s just not scary or intimidating to watch as an adult. The only character with any self-doubt or conflict would be that of the Huntsman, but even then it’s rushed and all done through wooden dialogue.

The movie also varies widely in tone, never totally certain of what kind of mood it wants so it just kind of throws a little of everything in there and hopes for the best. Sadly, this never works. There’s something to be said when not even Nick Frost can manage to be funny in your movie, though, bless him, he tries his best. The audience just doesn’t know whether or not they should laugh because less than two minutes ago the director wanted them to be in tears and everybody else in the scene is being serious.

Most of the supposed drama comes from the flat love triangle between Snow White, Eric, and Show White’s childhood friend William, played by Sam Claflin (who will also be playing Finnick in the upcoming Hunger Games sequel). But the romance is so rushed and forced that you never believe it which means no stakes, no tension, and nobody caring. And the dwarves really are a wasted opportunity. Names like Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Johnny Harris, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, and Brian Gleeson get people excited, and you expect a lot more from them than what you get. Sadly, the dwarves are relegated to exposition dumpers and, at their worst, props.

The sad thing is that there are obviously some people who tried very hard on this movie. It really is a gorgeous film and the scenes that make no sense to the plot are at least stunning visually. Charlize Theron’s wardrobe is amazing and it would not surprise me to see the film nominated for an Oscar on her outfits alone. The way feathers, bird skulls, and porcupine quills were worked into the costumes was truly impressive and it’s something that I cannot give the film enough praise on. There were also beautiful cinematography and special effects throughout; the scene in the Enchanted Forest is especially beautiful, even if it is a little too reminiscent of Hayao Miyazaki’s Princess Mononoke for comfort.

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that Roth Films handed a bad script to a director that was too inexperienced to make the necessary changes to make a good movie out of it. Snow White and the Huntsman was Rupert Sanders’ first film and it shows. His history in directing television advertisements may explain why the film was so visually stunning and filled with plot-irrelevant “trailer shots,” but something being pretty doesn’t make it a good movie. The film tries to have a feminist message in there somewhere about how men use women or how a woman is only valued for her beauty, which must ultimately fade, but none of it really works because the film itself doesn’t work. It’s too bogged down by its slow pacing, poor script, flat acting, and inexperienced directing. What beauty the film does hold is simply overshadowed by how badly you want it to be over.

However, the film made money, so in Hollywood’s eyes it’s a masterpiece. Get ready for the Kristen Stewart free sequel that’s in talks which may still have Sanders seated in the director’s chair; because apparently when you’re 22 and your married 41-year-old boss kisses you on camera, your career is over but his gets to flourish.

Video: A

The great thing about the movie is the beautiful cinematography that graces its widescreen 2.35:1 1080p presentation. There are many things to praise about the visuals in the movie. The dark fairies made of black obsidian looks impressive when they shatter; the Enchanted Forest is vibrant and colorful with creatures like the fairies, moss snake, and garden turtle; the Dark Forest fills with darkness with its subdued color palette. The movie was clear throughout, which helped with showcasing the details in Charlize Theron’s extravagant outfits, the skin texture from the bridge troll, and the many shots of Kristen Stewart’s face.

Audio: A

The audio is presented in English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1. The dialogue is crisp and clear. The action sequences roar and penetrate with the shattering of the obsidian dark soldiers, the sound of arrows flying, the crashing of the stones from the catapults, and the troll smashing and wrecking its environment.

Extras: B

Show White and the Huntsman Blu-ray comes with the extended and theatrical version. The extended version contains 4 minutes of extra footage. Audio commentary is included with director Rupert Sanders, visual effects supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and co-editor Neil Smith. A New Legend Is Born is a 20-minute documentary that summarizes the whole making-of process behind the movie.

Blu-ray exclusive features include:

“Reinventing the Fairy Tale” – Behind-the-scenes look at how the creative team decided to do another take on the classic Snow White tale.

“Citizens of the Kingdom” Behind-the-scenes look and details on Snow White, the Huntsman, the evil Queen, and the dwarves.

“The Magic Of Snow White and the Huntsman” – Behind-the-scenes look on the special effects of the movie.

Around the Kingdom: 360° Set Tour

Overall Grade: C

The movie’s pacing drags and watching Kristen Stewart as Snow White is a bore, but the visuals and cinematography are wonderful. The Blu-ray is a great demo that boasts some wonderful visuals and audio. The key here is if you enjoy the visuals and sound enough to warrant a Blu-ray purchase. If not, you should steer clear.

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