The Scoop: 2012 PG-13, directed by Rupert Sanders and starring Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Kristen Stewart, and Sam Claflin
Summary Capsule: The tale of Snow White told again, with the feel of 80s fantasy the way it wanted to be done.
Eunice’s Rating: “The huntsman obeyed, and took her away. But when he had drawn his knife, and was about to pierce Snow White’s innocent heart, she began to weep. His heart melted when she begged him to spare her life…”
Eunice’s Review: In 2012 the movies I was/am most excited to see were The Avengers, The Hobbit, Skyfall, and Dark Knight Rises. After these four, the movie I was most looking forward to was Snow White and the Huntsman. I say all this to put in perspective my expectations for this movie. Unfortunately, like every movie other than The Avengers (well and Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance which so doesn’t count), the universe has conspired against me actually going to a movie in theaters this year. Kinda disheartening.
And so it was that I, mostly, blind bought a copy.
So in this go around with Snow White, the kingdom is thriving happily. The queen and the king are ridiculously in love, and their daughter is best friends with her most likely future husband William, the son of a duke. Then a string of bad things start to happen beginning with the death of the queen, causing the king to become despondent. While the king is grieving a strange darkly enchanted army appears on his kingdom’s borders, forcing the king into action. When the dust of battle settles he discovers a prisoner in the enemy camp: A lovely, graceful young woman.
The king falls instantly in love with the great beauty, Ravenna, and marries her right away. On their wedding night she assassinates him and takes over the kingdom, locking away Snow White in a tower and putting all his court to the sword with the exception of the Duke and William who escape to their castle.
Fast forward a few years, and the Evil Queen Ravenna’s dark magic has blighted the very ground and atmosphere. Women live in fear of being taken to the castle never to return, feeding the queen’s quest for eternal youth and unmatched beauty. The duke and William are holding out in the late king’s name, with William leading a minor rebellion against the queen. Snow White, thought dead by most of the people, has come of age in the tower. Despite her isolation and having only birds to keep her company, she continues to have faith and hope, and is still able to feel compassion toward the young women who come through, and sorrow instead of hatred for Ravenna.
On the day that Ravenna’s magic mirror tells her Snow White is the fairest and the only one who can break her power, she sends her brother to fetch Snow. This presents an opportunity for escape and Snow takes it, making it as far as the Dark Forest. The queen’s power does not reach there, so she gives her brother a chance to redeem himself by finding someone who has survived the forest. And so comes the Huntsman, a widower who’s wife died while he was absent being forced to fight in the queen’s army. Ravenna tells him she can bring back his dead wife in return for bringing “a girl” back from the forest and he agrees. But, of course the queen cannot be trusted, and her brother has been instructed to go back on their deal and kill the Huntsman along with Snow. Eventually he agrees to help Snow get to the duke’s castle and she agrees to trust him to do so. Meanwhile word gets to William that Snow is both alive and on the run.
I’m going to get the one thing I see as a true shortcoming out of the way. It’s the same shortcoming as most Snow White adaptations, Snow White. Snow White by her very nature is such a paragon of perfection and purity that she comes off as flat and one note, downright boring. This is compounded by the fact that in Huntsman she doesn’t have much true dialogue until a St. Crispin’s Day type battle speech near the end. The more I think about this lack of lines, it’s actually quite weird. And Kristen Stewart channels Bella with her ‘head tilted gaping fish’ style of acting, I found myself wishing for younger Anne Hathaway back just for this movie. Though they do try to add something by making Snow White a more physical character, and a more mystical Chosen One ™ than just by virtue of her looks, so I’ll give them points for that. There is one moment though, where Snow says the Lord’s Prayer, and it’s like “huh?” in the context of the rest of the film. I mean, I get what they were trying to do there, but it pulls an otherwise completely fantastical movie into a bit of reality that’s never used again. It’s a little jarring, and is highlighted by Kristen Stewart having so few lines.
But it makes up for this in fleshing out the Queen with one of my favorite Charlize Theron turns to date. Driven mad by a need for revenge on everyone, but especially men, Theron plays the queen with barely in check insanity and rage. There’s a couple too many scenes where she goes into full on screaming lunatic, but during the quieter ‘I’m in control and I already know I’m going to kill you’ moments she exudes power and menace, and a hollowed out chilliness where her soul should be. The fight where she doesn’t even bother to turn around to dodge is nicely handled. I liked this Evil Queen very much.
The fascination with the Huntsman in the tale is something that’s come into the forefront in the last few years (for visual media, there’s a couple of books that have made use of him for a while). Either he’s been a small throwaway character, or forgotten all together, or turned into a villain second only to the queen herself. Off the top of my head I’d say ABC’s Once Upon a Time is the only other place that the Huntsman has been a tragic hero and important character.
Chris Hemsworth works for all he can with the character. The Huntsman is gruff and brooding, sometimes a smart ass, that starts out by surviving for himself and trying to get gold to pay for the ale he drowns the grief over his dead wife with. Hemsworth gets to act not only by delivering his lines (which aren’t on the surface always the deepest, but he puts meaning behind them), but also using his eyes. And during the fight scenes, he uses his size and physicality to full effect to create presence and present the character, which is a talent. Plus he’s hot, there I said it.
I do think a little more time could’ve been spent with the dwarves, but as I understand it the movie was planned out to have sequels so maybe they were waiting for those to flesh them out? But as it stands there are some really excellent actors that get very little use and in that it’s kind of disappointing (I mean if you got people like Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, etc. use ’em). But where they were going with them and the way they’re interpreted in their small amount of time I really liked (which made me want to see more of them, so double edged sword there).
I like what was done with William (Sam Claflin) and found him more interesting than some other Prince Charmings. He’s given a story where he’s haunted by not saving Snow when they were children, and fighting the Queen by leading raids and such. Also, he’s actually smart and clever in how he finds Snow White, instead of the usual riding randomly across the countryside. But like with the dwarves, he just doesn’t get enough time.
What most grabbed me about Huntsman seems to be the same thing that pushes some people away: It reminds me of the golden age of 80s fantasy movies, but in a good way. Snow White and the Huntsman stay on the run from the queen’s brother and his hired gang, passing through villages meeting people and mythical beings and a Princess Mononoke homage on the way to the duke’s castle. The places where the queen’s influence reaches are gray and muddy and drear, but the places that are free of her are bright and colorful and peaceful. There’s some more of the things that have become mainstays; poisoned apples, true love’s kiss, dwarves, helpful loving animals, etc., but it’s all with a twist. And back to that 80s fantasy, it ends with a big gritty battle with swords and axes and bows all over the place, but the main showdown is between Ravenna and Snow White because, “Well, if that is the way it is done, then that is the way you must do it.” Once I realized that what it reminded me of was those old fantasy films of my childhood (the exact moment being when she rides through the swamp to escape), I was able to accept the near disjointed segues from place to place, I think it flowed better than those by the strength of the parts with the Queen being the glue holding it together.
I guess I’d call it 80s fantasy in a post Jackson’s Lord of the Rings world. It’s a little hard to explain any better.
The visuals are very well handled and really creative. The magic or the creatures, the action and fight scenes, the balances are all there and wonderfully executed. Any scene with Ravenna is so easily watchable. And the set designs and costumes are nice as well. There’s this filming technique (which for the life of me I can’t remember what it’s called) where the blue gets drawn out and emphasized that really works for me.
At the end of the day I don’t regret purchasing it, and do regret not having been able to see it in the theater. It’s like all the things I loved about Snow White: A Tale of Terror, without falling apart at the end and stronger male characters.
If you like fairy tale movies or fantasy in general, I recommend it. If you’re looking for something to tide you over until The Hobbit, I recommend it. If you’re a fan of Charlize Theron or Chris Hemsworth I recommend it. If you’ve been on the fence about whether to watch it or not, I think you should, but take this advice, it has a very 80s flavor running through it.
- Kristin Stewart and Chris Hemsworth have been optioned for two sequels. However, the scandal between Stewart and director Rupert Sanders has reports flying around as to whether there will be a sequel at all, a sequel without Stewart, or a spinoff focusing only on the Huntsman. I personally would love to see a true sequel and don’t care about the fuss.
- There is a novelization that I haven’t read… Yet.
- Wilhelm Scream alert!
- There are eight dwarves
- So she’s been locked up since she was like, eight, and she can ride a horse?
- “I’m not dead yet! I think I’ll go for a walk.” Good thing they didn’t burn the body huh?
- The Huntsman or the duke… Like there’s a contest here. Right.
- During the scene where she jumps off the cliff, my brother goes “how hilarious would it be if Edward popped up and said ‘No, Bella. Stop.'” and this is why I get the most out of watching movies with my snarky family members. I suggested that instead of True Love’s Kiss, William should’ve tried biting her all over.
Ravenna: But I feel that you and I are bound. I feel it there, your heart.
Ravenna: I was ruined by a king like you once. I replaced his queen. An old woman. And in time I too would have been replaced. Men use women. They ruin us and when they are finished with us they toss us to the dogs like scraps.
Snow White: What does she want from me?
Finn: Your beating heart.
Ravenna: How is it that an innocent, young girl makes a fool of my brother? Armed only with a nail. If she’d had a sword she would have taken my kingdom. “Bring me the king’s daughter,” and you let her slip right through your tiny little fingers. How? You swore that you would protect me! You swore! Now there’s no one I can trust. No one! There’s no loyalty, no loyalty. None! Not even from you!
The Huntsman: Can’t you see I’m having a bath?
The Huntsman: Do not speak of my wife!
Ravenna: You miss her. What would you give to see her again? You know of my powers. Bring me the girl and I will bring back your wife.
The Huntsman: Nothing can bring her back.
Ravenna: I can. A life for a life.
Duke Hammond: I will not lose my only son. You don’t know the Dark Forest.
William: Then I will find someone who does. I will not abandon her a second time!
Snow White: Do you drink to drown your sorrows? Or your conscience?
The Huntsman: What concern is it of yours why I drink?
Snow White: I suppose a man’s sorrows are his own.
The Huntsman: What does a young girl like you know about sorrow?
William: I said, “do you need a bowman?”
The Huntsman: I told you to run.
Snow White: If I had you’d be dead.
Anna: Our scars protect us. Without beauty we are worthless to the Queen. It’s a sacrifice we made so we could raise our children in peace while their fathers are at war. And you, your sacrifice will come.
Coll: I don’t like killing girls.
Duir: I do!
Beith: Hi ho lads, it’s off to work.
Quert: If he starts whistling, I’ll smash his face in.
Muir: You have eyes, Huntsman, but you do not see. You, who have been with her the longest. She is life itself. She will heal the land. She is the One. Can’t you feel it? Are your ailments not gone? Gold or no gold, where she leads I follow.
Ravenna: You were the only one who could break the spell and destroy me, and the only one pure enough to save me.
Snow White: I would rather die than live another day in this death!
Beith: Six dwarves against an army.
Coll: I like them odds.
The Huntsman: You look very fetching in mail.
Ravenna: Come and avenge your father who was too weak to raise his sword. Go on, watch them die. How does it feel knowing you were the one who led them to their deaths? You see? We’re not that different, are we?
Snow White: I’m everything you’re not.
Ravenna: You cannot defeat me! I’ve lived too many lives. Ravaged entire kingdoms. I have been given powers that you could not even fathom! I will never stop. Never. I will give this wretched world the queen it deserves!
Snow White: You can’t have my heart.
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