Purists will recall that there was a huntsman in the original version of the Snow White fairy tale.
When Snow White was a young girl, and the magic mirror informed the queen that she was no longer the fairest in the land, she ordered a huntsman to take the young Snow White into the forest, kill her and bring back her lungs and liver as proof she was dead.
But in the latest reimagination of the fairy tale, Snow White and the Huntsman, the tale is greatly altered.
Once the good queen has died, “Ravenna” (Charlize Theron) appears before the King after he and his forces have vanquished a faux fighting force, as a trussed prisoner. He falls in love with her and quickly marries her. On their wedding night, she takes his life and installs herself as Queen by opening the castle gate and allowing the forces led by her brother to come in and conquer. The King’s daughter, the young Snow White attempts to escape but she is captured and locked away in a castle tower.
Years later, as Ravenna’s beauty has faded, and she has restored it magically by literally sucking the beauty from young girls from aound the kingdom, the mirror informs her that the only way to stop the cycle of fading beauty once and for all is to take the heart of Snow White (Kristen Stewart). She sends her faithful brother to get the prisoner, but she finds a way to lock him inside of her cell and makes good her escape, into the Dark Forest.
The angry and frustrated Queen orders that someone who knows the Dark Forest well be found to hunt down and bring back Snow White. A hunstman (Chris Hemsworth) is found who spends most of his time drowning his sorrows with liquor, lamenting the loss of his own wife. He knows the Dark Forest and without knowing who it is he is to recover, he sets out to find her.
But once he does, he chooses not to bring her back, but to help her. Along the way they encounter dwarves, although they aren’t mining anything any more, they are petty thieves. They don’t have cute Disney names either. But they are plucky, entertaining, and once they discover who this girl is, swear loyalty to her.
Now the struggle is to get Snow White to the castle of the Duke, where there are forces to try to wrest control of the kingdom from Ravenna. Yes, there’s a poisoned apple, and a kiss, and most of the other things you would expect from this fairy tale, even if we’re being shown a revised story, where Snow White becomes a warrior princess, complete with sword and armor. For only she can bring death to the evil Ravenna.
Snow White and the Huntsman is dark. The Dark Forest is filled with death and seems to literally suck the life and the good out of those who wander into it. Ravenna is a perfectly evil character, brought to life with a strong performance by Theron. Stewart is more than adequate as Snow White, although Twilight fans will see echoes of “Bella Swan” if they choose to look for them within the story arc of Snow White.
Another actress would not have evoked those responses, even with the same story elements. But that’s not Stewart’s fault and she has her moments.
Hemsworth is good, as usual, in action-based roles that don’t require too much else. I suspect he could deliver in other roles and look forward to hopefully getting the chance to see him in one some day.
There are moments that drag, in particular the final shot which goes on much longer than required. But the action that is there is good, and the special effects and the forest scenes are just amazing.