Never mind evil queen, ‘Snow White’ gets face-lift
June 8, 2012
“Snow White and the Huntsman” sets itself apart from recent sentimentalized adaptations of the Grimm fairytale. The evil queen is provided with a backstory, the dwarfs are thieving thugs and Snow White has two would-be suitors. No longer one-dimensional, Snow White becomes master of her own fate. She survives battles and kills when necessary.
Snow’s struggle to overcome murderous Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) documents the superior power of inner beauty. Though “fairest in the land,” Theron’s queen devolved into psychosis after her home town was invaded and her mother was killed – though not before the dutiful parent cast a spell granting young Ravenna eternal youth and beauty. These gifts exact a terrible toll.
When we meet her, Ravenna also possesses a magical mirror resembling a large bronze gong. The mirror drips from the wall and morphs into a prophesying, metallic man who instructs her in baritone.
After Ravenna kills the king, she imprisons Snow White in the castle tower. Opposite her cell, other young women are locked away, then taken to the queen who steals their youth to maintain her own. Snow’s turn to be consumed by Ravenna arrives on her 18th birthday. To save herself she stabs her keeper and escapes using the castle’s sewer system.
First-time feature director Rupert Sanders creates a well-paced adventure that maintains its momentum and, frequently, its tension. His esthetic creates stunning special effects, whether in the mud of the murderous dark forest, in the muted metal and stone of the castle, or in a vibrant sanctuary that plays host to the dwarfs.
Snow White retains her magical connection to animals and fairies, but she’s no shoo-in with the huntsman sent to kill her, or with a group of disenfranchised dwarfs. She must earn the faith of her people, and does so simply by being herself.
Stewart has a way of processing emotion onscreen, projecting the appropriate feelings only after Snow White has evaluated each situation. Within the scope of a fairytale, this simple method creates someone more interesting than the young woman scripted.
Other versions of Snow White presume we will love the princess and hate the usurping queen without further justification. “Snow White and the Huntsman” wants us to feel something more, and we do.