Snow White and the Huntsman is a dark, action-adventure twist on the traditional Snow White story. The prologue is introduced in classic voice-over style, narrated by the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth of Avengers Assemble fame). Here we learn how evil Ravenna (Charlize Theron) tricked her way into the king’s heart using a phantom army, posing as a beautiful prisoner of the dark forces. On their wedding night, Ravenna poisons and murders the king, taking the throne and imprisoning his daughter, Snow White (Twilight star Kristen Stewart).

As the main plot begins, Snow White (Kristen Stewart) escapes from Ravenna (Charlize Theron) – who is intent on using her to become immortal – and the huntsman is sent to find her. In true fairytale style, he quickly falls for Snow White’s natural charms and turns sides, promising to protect her from the dark queen.

Snow White and the Huntsman excels visually, contrasting the dark world of Ravenna with the life and colour that Snow White promises. The lighting in the green and animal filled sanctuary scenes is stunning and fairies are beautifully brought to life in CGI. But it is the dark forest that is the most mesmerizing of all Snow White and the Huntsman’s visuals, achieving something close to horror. As Snow White runs frantically through the trees, the ground turns into beetles and a poisonous smog emanates from the ground. Here, director Rupert Sanders achieves a real sense of claustrophobia and panic.

There are many other visual touches that help to create Snow White and the Huntsman’s grotesque and frightening atmosphere. Ravenna emerges from a flock of half-dead crows and eats the insides of dead birds with metal claws worn on her fingertips. She bathes in a thick, milky liquid and is glamorously evil, sporting some superb costumes, designed by Colleen Atwood, that will appeal to fashion hungry females everywhere.

Ravenna is obsessed with the beauty and immortal life and, as we watch Theron’s face morph between airbrushed perfection to fine lines and deep wrinkles, it’s like something from a twisted face cream advert. Of course Ravenna is superficial and predictable but Theron’s controlled coldness make this queen ominous and frightening. Ravenna’s characterisation is also backed up by references to her own childhood, hinting at why she is so damaged. It follows that Ravenna is the most well thought out character in the film.

Charlize Theron is divine as Ravenna, commanding audience attention whenever she is on screen

As Snow White, Kristen Stewart offers no great change from her Twilight performances and, despite playing the lead here, she seems to have precious little dialogue. The chemistry between her and co-star Hemsworth is limited and the romantic connection is unconvincing. This isn’t helped by a script which sees the characters remain fairly one dimensional throughout, experiencing little character development. Snow White apparently shifts from being much too sweet to carry a weapon, to donning a full suit of armour, spoiling for a fight, with little reference to how this change occurred.

Unfortunately, the dwarves, one of the film’s main highlights, are introduced a little too late in the day. Played by talent that includes Nick Frost, Ray Winston and Toby Jones, these interesting and amusing characters deserve much more screen time than they are given.

Snow White and the Huntsman is strong on looks but weaker on content. See it for Theron’s divine performance as Ravenna, commanding audience attention whenever she is on screen. Snow White and the Huntsman is a good effort at a dark interpretation but more dwarves and less huntsman would have vastly improved this re-telling.

VERDICT:  ✪ ✪ ✪

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