Snow White and the Huntsman

Year: 2012
Studio: Universal
Director: Rupert Sanders
Writer: Evan Daugherty/John Lee Hancock/Hossein Amini
Cast: Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones

The reason some stories are so timeless is because we love to imagine the deeper story behind them. What made that character like that? Where did they get that cool weapon or vehicle? What's the origin behind this relationship or that enmity?

It's not like the biggest movies we've seen over the last decade haven't done just this – look at the phenomenal success of the comic book movie, the first film in every franchise of which has to deal with the character's origin story. But the script, design and performances in Snow White and the Huntsman a combined that curiosity about the deeper story with a near-perfect execution. If you're the least bit curious about seeing an interesting iteration of the classic myth, it's everything you hope for.

It's already the fashion today to take old tales (fairy stories, comic books, etc) and take them back to their 'dark' roots, moving away from the kid-friendliness of 50s Disney movies or the campiness 60s TV. First-time director Sanders does the same thing.

But here's the big difference with this movie – Sanders and his writers do so better than you've seen in a long time. Snow White and Huntsman is a story for adults, set in a world that's understated and realistic even in its supernaturality. It's a world of castle keeps, medieval-era weaponry and even political jostling.

How the film manages to treat everything so seriously and get the tone so right is even more amazing in retrospect considering some of the iconic fixtures of the Snow White mythology. It's very hard to imbue dwarves with gravity, for example, but Bob Hoskins as their elderly, blind and wise leader is every bit as authoritative as Ben Kenobi or Splinter.

The Hunstman (Hemsworth) is given more to do than he ever had in either the Disney or original versions of the stories, and it's more much more than romantic fodder. He's given his own story, and when the evil queen Ravenna (Theron) gives him his orders he becomes an essential part of Snow White's (Stewart) story.

She's been imprisoned in a high tower ever since the queen married and murdered her father the King to take over the kingdom for herself. Her power comes from her youth and beauty, but Snow is coming of age and... well, you know the rest.

Snow escapes from the castle and the Huntsman is ordered to hunt her down through the dark wood and kill her, but instead he finds himself wanting to protect her as they stumble across a small clan of dwarves who (at first reluctantly) take care of them.

But it's a big budget Hollywood movie, so instead of the traditional ending even Walt Disney avoided (where the queen arrives at Snow's wedding to discover she's been thwarted in her attempts to kill the young princess) Snow and the Hunstman lead an army into battle against her, Lord of the Rings style.

Stewart isn't a brilliant actress, but she's a lot better than Twilight gives her credit for, and she isn't overtaxed in the role as the young princess, making her perfect for it. She's also indeed quite beautiful and doesn't have that overbearing sexuality as other young actresses.

Hemsworth is yet to stretch himself, trading on his wide chest and flashing blue eyes, but he makes an adequate leading man. But the show is all Theron's as the evil queen. Snow White and the Huntsman is to Mirror Mirror what The Dark Knight was to the 60s TV Batman. Where Julia Roberts hammed it up and had a great time, Theron plays it straight down the line and her natural talent makes her queen coiled and scary, giving you the feeling that she'll strike at any minute like a snake.

Where so many adaptations of short stories have suffered from obvious padding, the script keeps you interested the whole time, the performances are all pitch perfect and the brilliant design of the film does the rest. It's stylish, grown-up and beautiful, every bit the version of a fairy tale you wanted.

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