Thursday, June 21, 2012

Snow White, Warrior Princess?

Fairy tales seem to be back in vogue on the big & small screens recently. ABC launched a successful series this year called Once Upon A Time that delivered a modern spin on classic fairy tale characters. That series will be back for a second season this fall. Julia Roberts starred as the evil queen in the recent big screen release Mirror Mirror, a comedic take on Snow White. While the Roberts film wasn’t a big success at the box office, it didn’t stop Hollywood (as it often does) from releasing another version of the story, right on the heels of the first film.

Director Rupert Sanders’ Snow White & The Huntsman offers a different, darker version of the story.  In this adaptation, widowed King Magnus falls for Ravenna, a young woman that he & his army rescue from some marauding soldiers. He’s hoping she will bring him happiness, and be a good stepmother to his young daughter, Snow White. But Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is an evil sorceress, and murders Magnus on their wedding night. She imprisons Snow in a tower, and takes over the kingdom, with her loyal brother at her side. Ravenna begins an evil reign of terror, draining the life of young women to preserve her own youth & beauty, and consulting with her magic mirror on who is “the fairest of them all.” The once prosperous kingdom falls into ruin.

As the captive Snow White grows to adulthood, the mirror warns the evil queen that Snow’s beauty will surpass her own. Before Ravenna can absorb her life force, she escapes. Ravenna sends a Huntsman named Eric (Liam Hemsworth, Thor) to track her down, promising to reward him if he succeeds. During her escape, Snow goes on a perilous journey, and grows up in the process. She gathers some friends to help her fight the evil Queen’s tyranny. Her allies include some exiled rebels from the kingdom, a group of resourceful dwarves and Eric, who realizes he’s been tricked by Ravenna. Is Snow White the fulfillment of a prophecy that foretells Ravenna’s downfall? Will the forces of good triumph over the forces of evil?

Sander’s direction is solid, and he elicits some decent work from his cast: Hemsworth is good as the stalwart hero; Twilight star Stewart is fine as Snow White, playing the character a little tougher and more self sufficient than the usual interpretation. Several normal sized character actors (with the help of some impressive movie magic) including Bob Hoskins and Ian McShane, appear as the dwarves. But the standout here is Theron as Ravenna, who is every inch the villainess in a fantastic performance. She steals the movie right out from under her younger co-stars.

This is a great looking movie, with excellent production design, costumes & effects. You really feel like you’ve been transported into this fantasy world where heroes & villains and magic & menace exist alongside each other. The film's script falters a bit on character development & some story elements aren’t as well played out as they could be, but it does succeed as a different, more Grimm-like interpretation of this classic story. Worth seeing for a standout performance by Theron, some good work by the supporting cast & an excellent job by the production team. Snow White & The Huntsman is currently in theaters.

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