Snow White & The Huntsman (2012)
This may be a fairy tale, but this version is not really for the little ones. This is the second Charlize Theron movie I've watched in as many days and I'm happy enough to say (and partly saddened) that this is a better performance than yesterday. Certainly her performance here as the evil queen is as full of spirit as her turn in Prometheus was restrained, subtle and even a little chaste.
For those that don't go to the movies more often than average, you could be forgiven for thinking that Kristen Stewart has only ever made Twilight movies. There are more strings to her bow, however, with an interesting and eclectic back catalogue of independent work that you may or may not have seen. Suffice to say, there is more to Stewart than meets the eye and at times (though not throughout, unfortunately) you get to see this here.
In what is his most talky role so far (including, strangely, the narration) Chris Hemsworth gives us every reason to accept what makes him such a great action hero. The less he says, it seems, the better. Here he plays the eponymous Huntsman, tasked by the evil queen to find, capture and return the escaped Snow White (Stewart) in order for the Queen to steal her heart and make herself immortal. As a little brucie-bonus, she will once more be the fairest (c'mon now, Theron could whip Stewart's ass in a 'pretty-fight' any day) of them all.
This is the second stab at re-telling this fairy tale only this year, with Mirror Mirror already been and gone starring Julia Roberts. It had a massively different target audience, a totally fairy tale feel and was largely dreadful, save for some great dialogue for Roberts that earned the film a star and half just on its own. This version is much darker, much more grown up and at the same time, infinitely more satisfying.
One of the greatest achievements here is to not make the dwarves appear as anything like the munchkins of Mirror Mirror and every other attempt at telling what was originally a horrible story. The dwarves here are a credible bunch of full size actors that each have the ability to lead a movie on their own. With the likes of Ray Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Eddie Marsan and Nick Frost, it is indeed a coup to get them together here and more than a little masterful, when it would probably have been easier (not to mention cheaper) to hire some ready-made vertically challenged actors to play the roles. With these seasoned veterans on board, it makes the scenes in with they appear much more credible and enjoyable.
All told, this had all the markings of a disaster waiting to happen prior to release with so many things for critics to poke at with their mighty sticks of cinematic justice. You could almost hear them queueing up to have a go at it, but really, where to possibly begin. By the end of the viewing, it was quite clear that this was a much more polished example of storytelling than was first imagined and expected. It is immensely difficult to rethink these tales, as Mirror Mirror proved so completely, but first time Director Rupert Sanders has just about got the feel, pace and tone just about right, given the simplistic plot and occasionally muddy, cold script.
Entertaining and sometimes tragic throughout (which is no mean feat in itself) this version of the well-thumbed, much-loved tale appears to do more justice to its source material than many previous efforts. For fans of Stewart, this will go some way to rewarding their faith in an actress that many felt only had one string to her bow (I do wish she would stop continually kissing handsome young men though). She's far from perfect here, but give her a little credit. She has more promise away from Twilight than Robert Pattinson so far. The stand out success of the story here, however, is Theron. She is beautifully wicked and demonstrably evil throughout, not to mention at times, actually frightening.