The usual NFB warning for spoilers apply.
A very dark, but not unpalatable take on the classic fairy tale. Snow White (Kristen Stewert) has to team up with the titular “Huntsman” (Chris Hemsworth) in order to defeat the evil queen (Charlize Theron) with the help of various fantasy tropes.
It is a very, very dark plot, in tone, mood and visuals. It’s trying very hard to be gritty and “real”. There is a lot of mud and actual dirt in the two hours on the screen here, the creators doing everything they can to recreate a slice of the middle-ages that is as grubby as possible. That makes the occasional bits of light all the more spectacular when they come, but it is a super, super dark movie.
The concern going into this kind of movie is that it is going be very Twilight-esque, and it is to an extent – the cast is very moody, the girl falls for the broody damaged male hero, dark magic and gothic themes abound – but it honestly doesn’t stray too far into the Meyer nonsense. In fact, it’s more like Game of Thrones in the stylistic choices, the violence, the subtle incestuous implications, the clashing nobles. That gothic romance angle is largely ignored for much of the movies running time, and it doesn’t actually have a pay-off in the end, but at least the writers introduce a mild twist in rejecting the traditional fairy-tale route of the Prince Charming. That’s not all good through, because the Huntsmen character works better as the exasperated older mentor type, not the love interest. Some of the best parts, as familiar as they are, are when he’s verbally bouncing off Snow White and her naviete.
It’s really badly paced, way too long. It takes a very long time for anything to happen, with an extended prologue that could easily be cut down, a lot of tramping about, and a conclusion that just takes way too long to get to. Every scene is strung out a few minutes too long, and it just gets boring at times. The aforementioned prologue, a hallucination sequence in the forest, the big battle speech, the actual final battle, this whole sequence in a fairies stronghold are all prime examples of scenes that just need a bit of trimming. This movie is trying to be a fantasy epic but can’t hold the attention of the audience to the extent that Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter can – and the Twilight influences also damage it in that respect. There are many odds plot points taken – an extended stay in an all-female village, an brand new take on the poisoned apple story, an ineffective resurrection moment with little explanation, this big deer scene, and it does seem as if the creators aren’t quite sure what they’re trying to make.
And it really doesn’t help that the three leads are phoning it in (or just aren’t that good). Stewert isn’t as bad as she’s made out to be, but she seems listless and bored at times in this movie, caught between damsel-in-distress and warrior queen. She’s supposed to be carrying it, but it’s just not happening and she could do with putting on some weight. She’s not “the one” as they claim in the movie, her big battle speech being tiresome and eye-roll inducing. Hemsworth is another actor I think should get more credit then he gets, but here he’s little more than a Scottish Thor, albeit one with a few more maudlin feelings to display. He’s trying at least, but the dialogue isn’t great and his whole character is cliché to the hilt.
Then there’s Theron, who is just terrible as a very over the top villain with the most tropish dialogue possible (you cannot defeat MEEEEEE!”) that is delivered with a mixture of screams and whispers. They attempt to give the evil queen some depth at times, but it all falls short, and the Oscar winner is simply phoning it in here, pure and simple. The material isn’t easy to work with, but she’s simply not trying hard enough.
As is typical when the leads are ballsing it up, the supporting cast is actually doing fine just not getting much screentime. The Dwarfs are played by a plethora of really decent actors – Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost – who all give a good account of themselves even if the writers switch between creepy menace and comic relief for them, Sam Clafin is decent enough as the Prince Charming archetype though he seems somewhat superfluous to overall plot with the Huntsman involved to the extent that he is and Sam Spruell is actually the hidden gem as evil queens creepy brother, a far more effective villain then her.
What else is there to say? The CGI work is actually quite good, from the troll, to the faerie world to the glass warriors. Soundtrack is forgettable, I tend to say that whenever I’m not humming it after a viewing. They got the location work spot on though it has to be said, some really pretty medieval style vistas and landscapes. The fight/action scenes are uniformly decent, though, as stated, though do drag on a bit.
The ending sets it up for a sequel, but I’m not sure it’s one I’d like to see. Missable.