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Snow White and the Huntsman(2012)
In a twist to the fairy tale, the Huntsman ordered to take Snow White into the woods to be killed winds up becoming her protector and mentor in a quest to vanquish the Evil Queen.
For more about Snow White and the Huntsman and the Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-ray release, see Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-ray Review published by Kenneth Brown on August 24, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.5 out of 5.
Starring: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Sam Claflin
Director: Rupert Sanders
» See full cast & crew
Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-ray Review
Whatever should we talk about? Not the movie or its BD release. That would make too much sense.
Reviewed by Kenneth Brown, August 24, 2012
Soooo... this is awkward. Alright, let's just be done with it. Snow White and the Huntsman will forever be known as that flick where K-Stew cheated on R-Pat with her director! Once again, a celebrity's private life has been thrust upon us by a ravenous media culture and, once again, the ensuing personal drama has distracted filmfans from the only thing that really matters: the movie itself. Is it any wonder Universal is considering a Stewart-less sequel? Or a Huntsman solo outing with a different director at the helm? This isn't a case of a studio handing down a moral edict from on high, as so many have tried to suggest. It's simply a case of a studio wanting to make a second film rather than set the stage for another ridiculous media frenzy; a successful sequel that isn't burdened from the outset by the unfortunate baggage of its predecessor. Frankly, though, Stewart's lip-locking is neither here nor there. Snow White and the Huntsman has enough problems without dragging an actress' lapse in judgment and a first-time feature filmmaker's infidelity into the arena. Gorgeous and evocative as its visuals may be, Rupert Sanders' dark fairy tale is a sumptuous but fundamentally flawed fantasy pic that's essentially three or four different Snow White adaptations condensed into one ungainly epic.
The kingdom of Tabor has long been a realm of light and prosperity, ruled by the noble King Magnus (Noah Huntley) and the beautiful Queen Eleanor (Liberty Ross, Sanders' wife). When the queen succumbs to illness, though, Magnus is heartbroken; so heartbroken that he's easily manipulated into falling in love with another woman: the lovely and seemingly innocent Ravenna (Charlize Theron). But Ravenna isn't the angel she appears to be. She's a calculating immortal and powerful sorceress who kills the king on their wedding night, slaughters his people, imprisons his daughter Snow White (Stewart) and claims the throne as her own. Under the reign of Ravenna, Tabor descends into chaos and darkness; an era of despair only threatened by the young Snow White, who comes of age, escapes into the Dark Forest, and discovers she alone has a heart pure enough to defeat the evil queen. With the help of a huntsman initially tasked with her capture (Chris Hemsworth), an exiled bowman and childhood friend (Sam Claflin) and a rough-n-tumble band of dwarves (Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Johnny Harris and Brian Gleeson), the fugitive princess has to mount a rebellion, reclaim her kingdom and restore Tabor to its former glory.
It comes as little surprise that Snow White and the Huntsman's script is credited to three screenwriters -- Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini -- or that its otherwise clever, smartly tweaked take on the classic Snow White tale is so episodic and disjointed. There are distinct, oft-times jarring shifts in tone, pacing and storytelling; so distinct that they should trigger an emergency message along the bottom of the screen. Warning! Sharp Turn Ahead! The first comes when the Huntsman is dispatched to the Dark Forest to track down Snow White, and not just because it literally takes all of thirty screen-seconds to find the girl. (Keep in mind the queen required the Huntsman's services because it was too difficult for her soldiers to navigate the forest swamps. He takes note of a few footprints, walks in a straight line and, voilą, there lies his frightened, snow-skinned prize. The queen's soldiers and brother even come along and have zero problems keeping up.) The first act of the film is mesmerizing. Spellbinding even, bolstered by aching visuals, stunning fantasy-scapes, and bold and wondrous imagery. Ironically, it's the film Tarsem fans were expecting when Mirror, Mirror was announced; the polar opposite of the campy Julia Roberts vehicle that arrived in theaters.
For the next twenty-five minutes or so, it's an action piece, decent enough but seemingly the makings of an entirely different film. Along the way, a bridge troll (lifted from a Guillermo del Toro sketchbook) steals the show, Stewart's beauty evolves from sleepy to pouty, and Hemsworth remains the sole source of charm and charisma. (Love and passion are still, and ever, in short supply in Sanders' Snow White.) Then the dwarves enter the fray, God love 'em. Seriously. Love 'em. They're fantastic, they're funny, they're loyal to the end. And they're played with gusto by the likes of McShane, Hoskins, Winstone and Frost; an ingenious and, thanks to practical and digital trickery inspired by Peter Jackson and company, a convincing dwarven ensemble if there ever was one. They just don't quite fit in the tapestry Sanders unfurls in his first act, or even thrill in battle later, when they take to leaping about like trained ninjas and running through the thick forest underbrush as quickly and nimbly as Hemsworth and Stewart. Their arrival also precedes the film's most colorful sequences, which don't feel out of place so much as they occasionally stumble into CG-animated cartoon territory. Fairies crawl out of bird bellies, tortoises and snakes are covered in moss, an enormous Miyazaki-esque stag greets a water-walking princess near a pond, and the film briefly begins taking its cues from Legend's unicorn encounter. There are other dramatic shifts -- Snow White's climactic siege of the queen's castle is as mud-and-blood as bloodless PG-13 fare can amass -- and the ending is so abrupt and sunny, without any sense of narrative closure, that it disappoints and underwhelms altogether.
And therein lies the problem and, in some ways, the strange, dreamlike allure of Snow White and the Huntsman. Every hit is accompanied by a miss; the saving grace being that the hits are more memorable than the misses. The film's darker fantasies, breathtaking design-work, effective FX, and awe-swept visuals make it difficult to look away; its sometimes less-than-remarkable CG, occasionally pretentious shots, and shaky-cam action scenes tend to break the spell, if only for a moment. Its more agile performances delight: Hemsworth plays scene savior, the dwarves are a blast, and Theron is downright devilish as the evil queen. Its more wooden performances do not: Stewart shouldn't operate heavy machinery in such a drowsy state, Claflin is more Prince Caspian than Prince Charming, and Theron, who impresses when subtle and shrewd, loses steam the second she drops a register and shouts commands syllable by syllable. For every poetic flourish, there's a laughably cheesy one-liner or a dull stretch of dialogue. For every bit of absorbing fantasy world-building and mythos development, there's a baffling point of contention. (How exactly does Christendom, not the use of Christian symbolism but specifically the recital of the Lord's Prayer, fit into the high fantasy world of Tabor? It doesn't, and yet when we meet Snow White as a teen, that's exactly what she's whispering.) And for every disarming invitation that draws them closer to the heart of the tale, something else inevitably comes along to hold those same viewers at arm's length.
Snow White and the Huntsman isn't a mediocre film by any means. It's just overly ambitious, and slowly but surely slips away from Sanders. This might even be the most critical I've been of a film I enjoyed quite a bit. It was that enjoyment, in fact, that I suspect made the movie's weaker elements as disappointing as they were. Flawed as it is, Sanders' Snow White is worth watching, if only for its visuals and carefully plotted, often unpredictable adaptation. The story, script and performances may be uneven on the whole, and the tone of the piece may be inconsistent, but it's still more than possible to be swept up in the magic of everything on screen. If nothing else, Snow White and the Huntsman thoroughly outclasses Mirror, Mirror and comes with the promising prospect of a sky's-the-limit sequel or spin-off.
Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-ray, Video Quality
The fairest of them all? Snow White and the Huntsman's 1080p/AVC-encoded video transfer, which stands as a stunning testament to the most enchanting aspects of the film: director Rupert Sanders' dark fairy tale aesthetic, Greig Fraser's seductive cinematography and Cedric Nicolas-Troyan's visual effects. Colors are gorgeous, dripping with bewitching reds, ornate golds and bronzes, chilling grays and charcoals, and fittingly ominous blacks.The dazzling, sun-kissed hues of Tabor's days of plenty; the stony, black-glass gaze of the Queen's kingdom; the grimy, grungy muck of an impoverished, diseased village; the mossy greens and rich earthtones of the magical realms beyond the the Dark Forest... whether a slave to the darkness or an agent of the light, Sanders' fantasy remains a beautiful sight to behold. Detail is jaw dropping as well, and rarely falters. Edges are sharp, perfectly defined and, perhaps most importantly, free of troublesome ringing. Fine textures are revelatory, showcasing every inch and seam of Colleen Atwood's costumes, every smudge of dirt and errant hair on Snow White's head, and every one of the Huntsman's scrapes, scars and bits of stubble. Delineation is excellent too, pushing back the shadows without reducing their role in Fraser's photography. Better still, significant artifacting, banding, crush, aliasing or, really, anything that might give a good videophile pause is nowhere to be found. Snow White's transfer lovely and pure, and I have nothing but praise for its near-flawless presentation.
Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Snow White and the Huntsman's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track mounts a siege and invasion of its own, outside and inside the walls of your home theater. So convincing, so thunderous, so enveloping is the film's sound design and subsequent lossless mix that it's all but impossible to resist its call. The rear speakers come alive. There's no other way to describe it. Glass soldiers shatter and spill across the floor, the Dark Forest writhes, groans and wraps its branches around helpless wanderers, arrows whiz past with startling speed, dwarves clamor in the underbrush, a bridge troll sends debris flying, wind-swept trees bend and sway in the breeze, magical creatures scurry to see the princess in their wood, an attack becomes a dizzying dervish of action, swords and shields cry out from every direction, clashing armies wrap around the listener, and somewhere in the middle of it all amasses a most impeccable, most immersive soundfield. Directionality is convincing and precise, pans are smooth as silk, and dynamics are incredibly polished and refined. LFE output is brazen and boisterous too, lending the full force of its power to every monster's crashing weight, every fireball's roaring flames, and every heavy ax strike and meaty fist. And yet none of it overwhelms or stamps out the more delicate effects in the mix. Pixies flutter past. A droplet of blood lands in the snow. Muddy water sloshes and splashes in a swamp. The scales and platelets on the queen's armor clink against one another. Grand gowns swish and swash along a stone floor. Leaves crunch beneath the dwarves' feet. And butterflies flitter and flutter against the trunk of a tree. Through it all, dialogue, perfectly balanced and wonderfully grounded, neither wilts from the action nor lords over more serene scenes. Ultimately, Snow White and the Huntsman sounds as good as it looks, making its AV presentation a marvelous one.
Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Distractions, distractions. Celebrity misdeeds muddy the waters of yet another movie. Try as I did to resist, I couldn't help but be pulled out of the film every time Sanders' cameras would linger on Stewart's face a bit too long. But don't blame the director or the actress; the public and private hell they're going through at the moment is punishment enough. Blame the media frenzy surrounding their indiscretion. If our tabloid culture ceased to care about such things, perhaps we could watch Snow White and the Huntsman without an US Weekly photo dancing in the back of our brains. Still, it doesn't take a media circus to sully this Snow White. The film has issues of its own, chief among them its inconsistent tone and wildly uneven momentum. Universal's Blu-ray release is much better, though, with a breathtaking video transfer, a monster of a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track, and a full and plentiful supplemental package. If you're anything like me, you may be able to look past the film's flaws and soak in the gorgeous visuals Sanders has on tap. At the very least, the film is worth renting. You might even find yourself buying into Sanders' vision wholeheartedly and, in turn, buying a copy to add to your collection.
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