Say what you will about Kristen Stewart’s tumultuous personal life — at least she remains a reliably dull and uncharismatic performer. Fortunately, in Snow White And The Huntsman there are plenty of other things to hold your attention; as it happens, Mr. Sanders’ debut feature film is a fairly engrossing and visually captivating retelling of the classic fairy tale, and quite superior to its recent screen competitor, the snarky eye candy Mirror Mirror. With terrific production values, nifty visual effects and scenery-chewing malevolence in the form of Charlize Theron, this picture is now available on blu-ray loaded with bonus goodies.
Charlize Theron stars as the wicked queen Ravenna, a sort of avenging angel of feminism who apparently travels from kingdom to kingdom subjugating the opposite sex in a relentless lust for glory (like Lynyrd Skynyrd on tour). When she seduces and destroys Snow White’s dad, the titular heroine (Stewart) is locked away, thus facilitating the exciting escape and subsequent journey into the Dark Forest that is needed to keep the audience on board for more than half an hour. Ravenna enlists the aid of an unhappy huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track down Snow White and bring her to injustice, but of course he becomes her ally instead, along with a band of dwarves who assist Snow White in her Lord Of The Rings-ish quest to restore her kingdom. You know the drill.
The writing is not exactly top-notch (when someone in these movies says “Seize her!” I will never get tired of replying “I sees her, I sees her!” — and with screenplays like this, I will never run out of opportunities to drag out that old comedic chestnut), and they miss out on what seemed like a great third-act gimmick by not bringing back the enormous troll that Snow White tames in the forest; really, what was the point of that encounter if he wasn’t going to return after one lousy scene to help save the day in the climactic battle? Watching that big monster popping armored bad guys like tallboys would have been awesome. What makes the film worthwhile is its splendid look and abundance of eye-popping visual effects, as well as Theron’s wildly entertaining performance as the villain along with a great ensemble of British actors as the dwarves, including Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Nick Frost and the now-retired Bob Hoskins in what has become his final screen role. Seriously, casting the dwarves as though Sanders was making a British gangster movie was an inspired choice. Hemsworth continues to make a name for himself in this racket as the Huntsman, and Sam Spruell adds a dash of creepiness as Ravenna’s mop-topped brother Finn, who manages to convey the impression that he’s twirling a mustache without even having one.
The Universal blu-ray sports a gorgeous high-definition transfer and plenty of bonus features, including over an hour of behind-the-scenes docs and a commentary track from director Sanders, visual effects supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and editor Neil Smith. The commentary isn’t as overtly skeevy as the above gag from a recent episode of Conan O’Brien’s late-night chat show, although one cannot help but think about the possible additional layers of meaning behind every compliment Sanders gives his leading lady, and I for one cringed when he pointed out his wife (yikes!), who plays Snow White’s mother (double yikes!!). In addition to the extras on the blu-ray itself, Universal has also thrown in a “second screen” feature for use with their Pocket Blu app on iDevices and Androids; synchronized with the film, the second screen offers a wealth of interactive information that, apart from a couple of hiccups here and there, worked like a charm (and certainly stayed in sync with greater accuracy than I experienced with Disney’s similar second-screen app for Tron Legacy). Snow White And The Huntsman was an unexpected treat in an unexpectedly moribund summer movie season, and under a repeat viewing, it still holds up. If you see only one non-animated Snow White story this year, pick this one.