Universal was brave choosing first-time feature director Rupert Sanders for "Snow White and the Huntsman," and the result is a muddled riff that wants to be "Lord of the Rings," "Braveheart," Robin Hood," "Willow" and "Alice in Wonderland" all at once. They beat the fairytale-revival piñata and this is what came out. With Charlize Theron as the evil queen and Kristen Stewart as Snow White, we hoped for something gritty (within the confines of a PG-13 studio film) that would help empower its tween and teen girl demographic, taking the fairy tale in a feminist direction.
Basing an entire movie around the idea that Stewart is more beautiful and charismatic than Theron is problematic, and isn't believable for a second. Stewart was woefully miscast and given an unfairly heavy load to carry; the talent she has won't be highlighted in roles like this (or as Bella Swan in "Twilight") which continue to bury the spark we saw in 2007's "Into The Wild." Were Theron's Ravenna written with the depth it hints at in the beginning, audiences would likely find themselves rooting for her in the end over the lackluster Snow White, who is forced into saccharine CGI-settings with nothing to do but add some eye sparkle and would-be epic battle sequences that only highlight the narrative's failure to make her a believable leader to "end the darkness."
This is not a feminist take on Snow White, no matter how badly it wants to be. It tells us beauty is power, and then never successfully subverts that message because Stewart's Snow White is a stand-in for a heroine who could actually prove otherwise. A feminist retelling requires more than a girl riding a horse with pants and a sword and ending up with a crown on her head — here these token images read as the consolation prize for an audience that is assumed to be stupid. Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman manages to bring what little soul there is ton the proceedings and the Seven Dwarfs provide a dash of diverting comic relief. The cast does what they can given the cut-and-paste script and beautiful but overly stylized settings, but "Snow White and the Huntsman" is still a rotten apple.
Check out more reviews below:
THR: "This is a film of moments, of arresting visuals, marked seriousness, sometimes surprising imagination and with nothing on its mind, really, except to provide the conventional reassurance of installing a rightful royal on the throne. It's also a film in which you can't help but behold and compare the contrasting beauty of two of the most exceptional-looking women on the screen today, Stewart and Theron."
EW: "It's also a world-class illustration of how, in the age of the global blockbuster, the lust for demographics — for coralling the largest possible audience — can determine aesthetics. The movie works so hard to transform a quintessential girl story into a girl-and-guy story that it's like three movies in one. Theron, knowingly over-the-top, acts in a viciously charged and entertaining style…By the end, she's supposed to be playing Snow White as Joan of Arc meets Braveheart meets Katniss Everdeen, and she's less than authentic on all fronts."
Roger Ebert: "'Snow White and the Huntsman' reinvents the legendary story in a film of astonishing beauty and imagination. It's the last thing you would expect from a picture with this title. It falters in its storytelling, because Snow White must be entirely good, the Queen must be entirely bad, and there's no room for nuance. The end is therefore predetermined. But, oh, what a ride…There is a great film here somewhere, perhaps one that allowed greater complexity for the characters. But considering that I walked in expecting no complexity at all, let alone the visual wonderments, 'Snow White and the Huntsman' is a considerable experience."
Salon: "A lot of things go wrong in 'Snow White and the Huntsman,' so many that it’s surprising the film feels as exhilarating and entertaining as it finally does. The problems start with the central premise and the leading actress, but there are also the wobbly CGI effects, uncertain character arcs and unresolved subplots, not to mention the regional British Isles accents, which may be tough for American viewers to follow,..[Stewart] badly needs to get out of the business of playing storybook virginal princess types,..this Snow White — who is sometimes Bilbo Baggins (and sometimes his Ring), sometimes Luke Skywalker, sometimes Joan of Arc and sometimes Henry V — calls for both broad hambone instincts and a natural aristocratic bearing. Stewart possesses neither, looking and acting rather too much like a standoffish American girl faking a posh accent."
Boston Globe: "Charlize Theron gives a performance that fuses astonishing costumes (from multi-Oscar winner Colleen Atwood), alarming special effects, and overacting of a degree rarely seen these days. Theron can be an actress of wit and even subtlety, but it’s hard to bring nuance to a role that requires you to bellow 'YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME!' a few scenes after emerging from an oil slick covered in crows,..After a while, you just sit back and let the thing wash over you, marveling and giggling as necessary,..[Sanders] has talent, conviction, and a knack for the arresting image; what he doesn’t have yet is any sense of how to craft a seamless two-hour narrative."
Miami Herald: "[Stewart] has a bum rap of being inexpressive and moribund as Bella in the Twilight movies. But at least she’s physically suited for that role. In Snow White and the Huntsman, this talented but woefully miscast actress is expected to rally an entire army of soldiers, even though she usually looks like she forgot the combination to her locker."
AV Club: "The greatest innovation Snow White And The Huntsman brings to its 'dark retelling' of the Snow White fairy tale is suggesting that its evil-queen antagonist (played by Charlize Theron) has a name, a past, and a purpose. And its biggest letdown comes when it abandons that idea entirely in order to turn her into yet another generic baddie, an impersonal wall of CGI special effects and grimaces for Snow White (Kristen Stewart) to throw herself against,..Huntsman feints at being the Snow White retelling no one has ever seen before, but ultimately becomes the 'been there, done that' of fairy-tale filmmaking."
Seattle Times: "In any reasonable Snow-White-vs.-the-Evil-Queen matchup, Kristen Stewart wouldn't stand a chance against Charlize Theron. I mean, really. There's Theron as the Queen, smiling in a way that would put frost on tomatoes, standing there with her regal bearing and fabulous feather-bedecked outfits and slightly contemptuous gaze (conveying "I might kill you, but I might be too bored. Let me decide"). And then there's, well, Bella Swan in a corset. It's not a fair fight, and I suspect the makers of 'Snow White and the Huntsman' know it, but apparently you can't mess with the endings of fairy tales,..[It] left me wishing that Queen Ravenna would head off on a motorcycle with Lisbeth Salander and raise some hell — now that would be a movie.
ThePlaylist: "When discussing how powerful males use women and then cast them aside when they reach a certain age, [Ravenna] might as well be describing Hollywood's hiring process,..[It] is often a visually gorgeous movie, at times genuinely jaw-dropping, but the rest of the film is totally drab,..It's a movie made for children that is often shockingly dark and violent, but at the same time probably too frivolous for adults."
Slant: "Much detail is lavished on the medieval setting, a mud-and-shit-everywhere nightmare that could have easily been imagined by the makers of Game of Thrones..is it destiny that truly empowers the girl or narrative convenience and expediency?…As feminist fantasy, the film is non-committal, and as a reimagining of the fairy tale, it's at best expensive-looking without seeming wantonly so."
Variety: "Handsome but hollow,..The cast does what it can — especially Theron, whose frequent fits add 'drama' and 'raging' to her regal title — but can't overcome a degree of flatness to the middle section or lack of consistent excitement at the end. Nor does Hemsworth's roguish charm come across as effortlessly as it did in 'Thor'…The movie and its villain share a common bond: Conjuring a touch of magic is one thing, but sustaining great helpings of it is something else entirely."