As Mirror Mirror demonstrated just a couple of months ago, there isn’t a whole lot of narrative mileage left in the story of Snow White, and the success of any new adaptation hinges on the presentation and arrangement of the same familiar elements. Snow White and the Huntsman throws in all of the standard Snow White plot points (magic mirror, poison apple, dwarves, true love’s kiss, etc.) and presents them in a somber, plodding fashion that drains much of the excitement from the story. It takes a tale that can be read to a child in 10 minutes before bed and drags it out past two hours, without adding any unique elements to make the extra time worthwhile.
Director Rupert Sanders, an advertising veteran making his feature debut, creates some wonderfully evocative visuals, but they’re just fleeting moments of beauty that can’t compensate for the slow, tedious story. Mirror Mirror director Tarsem Singh has made a career out of decorating lackluster scripts with lush imagery, and Sanders’ style is similar, if not quite as ornate. The costumes and sets in Snow White are often exquisite, and numerous odd images (including a white stag breaking apart into hundreds of butterflies) demonstrate Sanders’ flair for composition.
He fares much worse with actors, however. Kristen Stewart is in mopey Bella Swan mode as Snow White, whose supposed romantic connection with the rugged Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, working an inscrutable accent) is completely absent. Charlize Theron goes way over the top as the evil queen out to stop Snow White, and while her icy beauty is a perfect fit for the vain ruler, her repetitive line readings (all sticking to the same dynamic of gradually increasing volume) are more silly than menacing.
The movie itself is terminally solemn, even when introducing its version of the seven dwarves, played by a host of accomplished actors (including Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone and Toby Jones) given almost nothing to do. When one of them finally makes a joke, it feels shockingly out of place, although it does at least momentarily rouse the movie from its gray, leaden slumber.