A few years ago, it seemed that re-imagined fairy tales were set to take over cinemas in the same way superhero films did at the end of the nineties. Countless projects were touted, but when the bid for cinematic domination began, the opening shots fell short.

Alice in Wonderland may have made a decent haul at the box office, helped by an Avatar-inspired curiosity about 3D, but it was one of the worst films of 2010 – which is saying something considering that was also the year of The Wolfman, Clash of the Titans and Gulliver’s Travels – while last year’s Red Riding Hood was, amazingly, even worse – an insipid Twilight knock-off that was a combination of incomprehensible story, penny-pinching production design and terrible, lazy performances. And then there was Beastly – the less said about which, the better.

And so we come to this year’s effort, Snow White and the Huntsman. The signs weren’t great – a story by a first time screenwriter, quickly turned around by a first time director, and the producer of Alice in Wonderland, starring an actress whose primary claim to fame is to have spent the last four years chewing her face off whilst lusting after Robert Pattinson. Strangely though, while Snow White and the Huntsman should be rubbish, it’s not. Quite the opposite, it’s sort of terrific.

Hanging off a clever and well constructed screenplay, that touches on the expected elements of the Snow White story without once seeming predictable, the movie is very much the fantasy romp that previous efforts have promised, but failed to deliver. Not only is it well written, but director Rupert Sanders has created a world that feels completely believable, and truly epic. The astonishing production design helps here, but it’s the little details – from waterside villages to moss covered tortoises that really sell it. It’s so rich, that at times Snow White and the Huntsman feels like a live action Studio Ghibli movie.

Stewart has to tread a fine line as Snow White between passive victim and active protagonist, and it’s surprising how successfully she does so. It’s popular to criticise Stewart for a lack of range, but here her performance works quite well. What’s particularly impressive is how flawless her accent is. In fact, hers is the most consistent accent in the film, even amongst the cast members born and raised in England. By contrast Theron’s attempt changes more or less with every shot, while Hemsworth’s attempt at a Scottish accent – presumably to differentiate the Huntsman from his recent turn as Thor – is just a bit odd. It’s also provides for some unintentionally racist subtext, portraying the only Scotsman in the film as a violent drunk.

While Theron’s accent may be a little off, her performance isn’t. She spends much of the film snarling and screaming, leaving toothmarks in the scenery around her. She squeezes every bit of menace she can from the script. The only pity is that’s pretty much the only emotion she has. There’s a moment in the film where the queen is humanised a little, but that sympathy we feel for the character is only fleeting, as within seconds we’re back with snarling Charlize.

The film’s biggest issue is the lack of a sense of fun. It’s so po-faced that at times I half expected Christopher Nolan’s name to turn up somewhere in the end credits. The few comic moments are great, and a pleasant relief, but there simply aren’t enough of them, and the film suffers from it. In particular, there are times where it’s very hard to stay engaged with the movie, particularly when Snow White and her pet Huntsman are simply blundering around the countryside aimlessly.  That said, the film moves along at such a fast pace that this is only relevant for a fairly short time, and soon enough there’s something new and exciting to distract us.

Accents and a serious attitude aside, Snow White and the Huntsman is actually a very good film. Describing it as an impressive debut for Rupert Sanders is unfair. This would be an impressive film if it had been directed by Guilermo Del Torro or Peter Jackson. For a debut it’s truly astonishing. Stewart is sufficiently divisive anyway, that her presence will likely upset some viewers, but if you can get over the Twilight baggage, she’s actually rather good, and certainly holds her own against Theron. In all, it’s well worth a watch.


  • Unique Jenique

    Thank you. I liked your review and really appreciated the fact that you didn’t find it necessary to bash Kristen, as a lot of people tend to do. It is like a prerequisite for some critics. I really am looking forward to this film 🙂

  • That’s very kind of you to say. Thank you very much.

  • Nice review- I’m seriously thinking of going to see it based on this. Thanks!

  • Knad

    Very good job. I like this article. I am not twilight fan but I still think Kristen is the best young actress for her generation. She is versatile actress.Thanks!

  • jack

    >>>Alice in Wonderland may have made a decent haul at the box office…<<

    I hope that was a joke. You do know it made over $1 billion at the box office, right?

  • monty16

    Wow this guy is so afraid of Stewart fans he felt obligated to say something nice about Stewart. While better critics said it like it is! Stewart once again fails to deliver. I know all the girl on girl lovers will defend Stewart but it will not change the fact that she cannot act and has brought down the standard of a movie again. Good thing she has Twilight lovers to back her.

  • I’m not afraid, I just thought she was pretty good in the film. I’ll quite happily criticise shitty acting when I see it, and couldn’t really give a toss whether people agree or not. I am curious however, whether your view comes from having seen the movie, or from reading other reviews.

  • Yes. That’s why I said the haul was decent. What phrase would you prefer I use to describe it?

  • SSKS

    is it
    necessary to to mention Pattinson in a review?! its beyond good and evil, and common sense

  • I do ‘t believe itis, which is why I didn’t

  • dave

    Story I don’t agree. I found the director just added scenes to fill space. The screen writing was horrible. Cut to scene of people running then cut away to the queen standing dramically then back again. Really disappointed

  • Marilyn

    I found your review interesting and witty. I even had a laugh at the comment about Chris’ Scottish accent.
    Anyone who thinks Kristen is a shitty actor is jumping on the haters bandwagon. I bet they’ve only seen her in Twilight. Check out her other movies such as The Runaways and Welcome to the Rileys and you’ll definitely be impressed. Or maybe just judge her in this movie like you’ve never seen or heard of her before. You’d be pleasantly surprised.

  • I went to see it tonight and was nowhere near as impressed as you. For that, I am disappointed. Personally, I’ve been waiting for Twilight to end so that we may see more of Stewart and Pattinson instead of the lackluster, blah characters they’ve been. I don’t know if part of the problem was the venue (I saw it at an outdoor theatre) but I had difficulty following some of the scenes. On top of that, I felt Stewart fell short with her facial expressions. She had a couple dozen lines, which is difficult for any actress because of the amount of pressure on them to tell the story with their expressions. She did not; most of the movie she looked rather lost (to the point where it was almost comical) and I’m still confused about the troll. Scenes and scenery felt familiar, and I left wholly disappointed. I am afraid I still don’t see the appeal of Kristen Stewart’s limited range, and even Hemsworth and Theron didn’t make it worth it.

  • jacky

    Shut the fuck up

  • Margaret Makowski

    i have to strongly disagree with most if your review. being a huge fan of the snow white fairy tale for well over 20 years i feel like the movie was lack luster. aside from strong cinematography the movie lacked back story, on screen chemistry between any major characters and the directing was terrible. being one of the largest snow white fans on the planet sir i would have to say open your eyes when you watch movies.