Snow White and the Huntsman had great potential between the cast (Charlize Theron especially), adequate direction from Rupert Sanders, and some truly impressive art and production design. However, for all the good the film has going for it, everything else is kind of bland. The opening of the movie is fine but the middle portion meanders and Kristen Stewart has limited emotions making it difficult to really care about what happens to her.
Genre(s): Fantasy, Drama
Universal | PG13/UNRATED – 128/132 min. – $34.98 | September 11, 2012
Directed by: Rupert Sanders
Writer(s): Evan Daugherty (screen story), Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini (screenplay)
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Toby Jones
Theatrical Release Date: June 1, 2012
Features: Commentary, Featurettes, U-Control, Second Screen, DVD Copy, UltraViolet, Digital Copy
Number of Discs: 2
Audio: English (DTS-HD MA 7.1), French (DTS 5.1), Spanish (DTS 5.1)
Video: 1080p/Widescreen 2.35
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Disc Size: 44.4 GB
Codec: MPEG-4 AVC
THE MOVIE – 3.0/5
Every so often there’s a subject matter or genre which permeates Hollywood and inevitably studios will release similar material around the same time. In 1997 it was Universal vs. Fox with dual volcano disaster movies (Dante’s Peak / Volcano respectively); over the past few years everybody was buying up properties about vampires and/or werewolves. And now in 2012 Universal and Relativity butt heads with the latter releasing Mirror Mirror earlier in the year (March) with Universal following up with the more expensive and tentpole-oriented (June release date) Snow White and the Huntsman.
Given each of the film’s budgets, neither one did amazing box office (Huntsman managed $155M domestically on a $170M budget, though overseas added another $240M for nearly $400M worldwide total versus Mirror’s $160M WW total). But putting the box office aside, how do the two compare? Which is the victor? As with the battle of the volcano disasters, Universal wins the round again; though both films are perfectly fine, if not unremarkable.
Snow White and the Huntsman basically begins like any of the others with Snow’s father, King Magnus (NOAH HUNTLEY), falling prey for the Evil Queen, Ravenna (CHARLIZE THERON) who had orchestrated a phony battle in order to be rescued, fall in love and ultimately kill Magnus and rule over the kingdom with an iron fist. She in turn locks Snow in the dungeon and in the years following, she kidnaps young women to steal their age (or something like that) in order to keep her young.
As with the fairy tale, Ravenna also has a special mirror in which she asks who is the fairest of all in the land to which he answers she is… that is until Snow White’s (KRISTEN STEWART) 18th birthday when she comes of age. So Ravenna sends her creepy albino brother, Finn (SAM SPRUELL) to kill Snow but she manages to escape Fugitive-style into a waterfall after crawling through the castle’s pipes. She arrives onto a beach where, magically and with no explanation, a white horse awaits and she rides off with Finn and his army on her tail.
Snow eventually ventures into the Dark Forest where the Evil Queen’s powers cannot penetrate. With her army unable to locate Snow there, she sends off for someone with experience to find and return Snow to the castle. The man they find is Eric the Huntsman (CHRIS HEMSWORTH), whose wife had died years earlier and now spends his days getting drunk and picking fights with whoever will accommodate. He’s brought before Ravenna and is promised to have his wife brought back from the dead if he captures Snow, an offer he accepts.
The Huntsman ventures into the Dark Forest where he quickly finds Snow but she convinces him that she is in danger and he ultimately helps her out (reluctantly) of the forest and escape from Finn and his pursuing army. Snow and the Huntsman’s journey runs into eight dwarves: Beith (IAN MCSHANE), Muir (BOB HOSKINS in his final performance before retiring), Gort (RAY WINSTONE), Nion (NICK FROST), Duir (EDDIE MARSAN), Coll (TOBY JONES), Quert (JOHNNY HARRIS) and Gus (BRIAN GLEESON). Casting big people in these roles was controversial and I can see why especially considering I don’t quite understand the benefit of doing so (for the record, Mirror Mirror cast a who’s who of little people in similar roles).
Anyway, Snow, the Huntsman and the dwarfs’ journey to her kingdom to stop the Evil Queen before she, well, continues to do all her evil work on the poor and hungry. Obstacles get in the way and Snow even rekindles a long-lost friendship from bow sharp shooter William (SAM CLAFLIN) aka Prince Charming who was forced to flee from the kingdom as the Evil Queen and her army sought destructions after the killing of Snow’s father.
First let me say, Snow White and the Huntsman certainly isn’t a bad movie. It’s competently directed by Rupert Sanders – making his debut after tackling commercial direction (like Michael Bay and others before him) – and finely written by Evan Daugherty (debut), John Lee Hancock (A Perfect World, The Blind Side) and Hossein Amini (Drive, Killshot). However, despite a decent script, the entire film felt… lifeless which is odd given the fantasy nature.
Casting wise, Kristen Stewart is, well, Kristen Stewart; her Snow White is so dull and boring I had a hard time caring about her and almost dozed off whenever she was on screen. Don’t get me wrong, she’s an OK actress but she’s got one facial expression and it covers all emotions (happiness, sadness, anger). Her performances in the Twilight movies aren’t much better though I guess she conveys teenage angst so well. I will say her turn in Welcome to the Rileys and Adventureland wasn’t bad, so he’s not a terrible actress just not a very dynamic one.
Similarly, albeit not quite as bland, Chris Hemsworth seems to mostly sleepwalk through his role. I can’t entirely blame him for a part which is fairly one-dimensional and I think he’s a good enough actor who, as shown in Thor, has the charm to carry a movie (which he apparently will do in the proposed sequel).
Lastly, and maybe the film’s only saving grace, is Charlize Theron. Oh, make no mistake, her performance as the Evil Queen isn’t anything that will be noted in her vast career but it’s so over-the-top at times that you at least feel like she was having fun with the role. The only drawback to the performance is she does often scream her lines, so for some it might get on people’s nerves.
On the whole, Snow White and the Huntsman is hardly a terrible movie but it did squander so much potential from a great cast (well, sans Stewart perhaps), fun interpretation of a classic story, impressive visual effects and spectacular production/costume designs which are probably award worthy. If you’re a fan of subject matter and enjoyed Mirror Mirror and “Once Upon a Time”, then you might get something out of it.
SPECIAL FEATURES – 4.0/5
Like other Universal new releases, this also comes with a nice matted slip cover with the title raised slightly. In this set there is a standard DVD Copy as well as download codes for UltraViolet and the classic Digital Copy for your mobile device or computer from iTunes.
Audio Commentary – Director Rupert Sanders, Visual Effects Supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and Co-Editor Neil Smith who offer tid-bits on how the film was made or certain shots were obtained. As one would expect from a couple of Brits, it’s a nice track which keeps on subject.
Extended Version (2:11:33; HD) – I only watched the theatrical version so I can’t really tell you what was added, but given it’s about 4-minutes longer, I’m not really sure what was added but if you listen to the commentary, they do mention what was included back in.
U-Control – Universal’s signature Blu-ray feature, with this you can view picture-in-picture content (theatrical version only) while watching the movie. You get some of the same info with a tad more. Not sure if it’s really worth your time but if you’re interested in the movie, it might be worth watching.
A New Legend is Born (20:53; HD) – This featurette covers the genesis of the project and has your typical interviews with the cast (Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, etc) and crew. It’s more of a hodgepodge of subjects from the director making his debut to the costume design and more.
Reinventing the Fairytale (6:07; HD) tackles the retelling of the classic story and turning it into a screenplay.
Under Citizens of the Kingdom, we take a look at the different characters in the film: Fairest of Them All: Snow White (5:48; HD), Deliciously Evil: Queen Ravenna (5:36; HD), The Huntsman (5:04; HD) and Motley Crew: The Dwarves (6:42; HD). Each covers the respective character and the actor/actress who played them. These are mainly superficial learning some basic information and not much more.
The Magic of Snow White and the Huntsman (13:23; HD) is a cool featurette which examines the visual effects use. It’s interesting to see how some of it was created and integrated into the film.
Around the Kingdom: 360? Set Tour is a feature where the viewer can select 5 different locations and get a panoramic view of the set. Selecting a part of the set will give you a short featurette. Each comes with an introduction by Sanders.
Second Screen allows the user to watch the film and through the PC or mobile device (including the Kindle Fire which is what I have), get some more information about the movie via interviews and behind-the-scenes footage. In order for this feature to work, your Blu-ray player must be connected to the Internet.
Previews – Death Race 3: Inferno, Werewolf: The Beast Among Us, Dead in Tombstone, End of Watch, Anna Karenina
VIDEO – 4.5/5
Snow White and the Huntsman arrives on Blu-ray (MPEG-4 AVC codec) presented in its original 2.35 widescreen aspect ratio. It should come to no surprise that the 1080p high-def transfer looks fantastic. The movie shows a variety of colors from the darkness in the forest to the vibrancy when the group ventures into a secret area where greens are bright and shows off so well on the format. Also, the detail levels look great throughout, being able to see every edge, scratch and whatnot.
AUDIO – 4.75/5
The disc offers up an immersive 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. As you can imagine, the lossless track sounds incredible during the action scenes and yet still shows off even during the quieter, more dialogue driven moments. The LFE channel kicks on and while it won’t shake the floor, it’s still even keel enough to provide for a rich home theater experience.
OVERALL – 3.75/5
Overall, Snow White and the Huntsman had great potential between the cast (Charlize Theron especially), adequate direction from Rupert Sanders, and some truly impressive art and production design. However, for all the good the film has going for it, everything else is kind of bland. The opening of the movie is fine but the middle portion meanders and Kristen Stewart has limited emotions making it difficult to really care about what happens to her.
While the movie might be average, the Blu-ray at least offers up great audio/video transfers and a good amount of features which delves into how the film was made.