“Men use women,” the villainous Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) says in the new film, “Snow White and the Huntsman.”
Ravenna, on the other hand, uses everyone. She uses a new husband to take over his kingdom. She uses her brother to get her dirty work done. And she uses young women to steal their beauty.
But the girl she doesn’t know how to use properly is her step-daughter, the beautiful Snow White (“Twilight’s” Kristen Stewart). That is, until she realizes White could be her key to eternal life.
“Snow White and the Huntsman” focuses on the Queen’s attempt to recapture and kill the defiant White after she escapes her imprisonment.
As the story begins, Ravenna isn’t an actual queen. In fact, she looks like a fragile prisoner when the King, Snow White’s father, finds her cold and shivering in the dark after a battle between the King’s forces and an evil army.
Ravenna was aligned with the evil forces but when they are defeated, the King takes pity on her and marries her the next day. He may be king, but no one said he was a wise king.
Ravenna swiftly betrays him, and the story proceeds from there as she sends a drunkard widower– the titular Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth)–to find her in the dark forest.
Snow White and the Huntsman eventually work together and face a series of challenges and evil forces in the woods. It’s here that the film takes on an episodic format that never builds up to anything. The non-dynamic duo go on several adventures and meet different personalities–including, of course, a group of mischievous dwarves–but these little adventures don’t add much life to the story and could have easily been excised to make room for stronger characters and a deeper plot.
But the film does offer up astounding special effects and great visuals delivered by first-time director Rupert Sanders. In this accomplished effort, Sanders displays a flair for visual magnificence in his early battle sequences and in the scenes showing Ravenna emerging from a bathtub covered in gooey liquid. The make-up team for this picture should also be applauded for its work on the queen, who ages rapidly when she is unable to feed off of her captives.
In terms of casting, Theron has the meatiest role as the evil Queen. As the two title characters, Stewart and Hemsworth do a solid job, but the script gives them little help. On the other hand, Ravenna is imbued with a delicious evilness that Theron pulls off nicely. Although there are a few scenes where her yelling fits get over the top, the Oscar winner knows how to show both stridency and fragility and offers them both up here.
If “Snow White and the Huntsman” is remembered over the next few years, it will likely be for its visual effects and Sanders’ accomplished directorial debut.
His talent–and Theron’s acting skills– shine through in what is otherwise simply a passable film experience.