As of today the oldest and the newest film in my collection are both about Snow White. Disney’s animated classic came out in 1938 and the story has remained timeless through so many iterations of the story. Today, the blu-ray release of Snow White and the Huntsman has been released and provides yet another take on the tale to help bring it to a more modern audience. The details have changed, but the story has changed little. What was once used as a vehicle to ground animation as a worthy story-telling medium is today being used to…well, I’m not sure. Perhaps the point is to sell gossip magazines covering illicit affairs? Okay, I kid, I kid. But seriously, I’m not entirely sure why we need another Snow White story. That doesn’t mean the new film isn’t welcomed or enjoyable, but the epic scale of the film is somewhat lost when I try to think about what it’s all for.
That being said, the film is enjoyable, and I do welcome it to my collection. I’ll watch it again, sometime, and I’m pretty sure I’ll enjoy it whenever I do, but the film doesn’t do much other than provide a few new twists, an enjoyable CGI experience, and a vehicle for of Hollywood’s young to show their faces. There’s nothing really new, in other words, to this version of Snow White, despite its modernization.
I think most of you know the story. Snow White (Kristen Stewart, Into the Wild*) is a princess, locked away in a dungeon after her step mother, Ravenna (Charlize Theron, Prometheus), kills the king and takes rule over the land. Eventually Snow White makes her way out of the castle and into the dangerous forest where a drunken huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, The Cabin in the Woods) is called upon to find her and bring her back. I assume we’re all caught up now.
*See how I didn’t refer to the Twilight films here?
There are some nice updates to the film, but these are little things and don’t really change the scope of the story. However, the changes are fun and the character development is better than average. Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron are the stand outs in both acting and character development. While I would love to give Kristen Stewart a hard time, she’s not given much to do until the final act, which is still overwhelmed by Theron. The film would have been perfectly enjoyable had the story really just involved the huntsman and Ravenna, with Snow White completely written out, which is rumored to be happening for the sequel (well, maybe just the huntsman…I don’t want to give away any spoilers here about the fate of Ravenna, but you do know the story, right? Right.).
The dwarves, which get a bit of the back seat treatment compared to previous versions of the story, are certainly a highlight of this film and most of that is due to the casting. This could have been an easy area to get completely wrong, but there are some really great actors in this group of small tough guys. The dwarves include Ian McShane (Deadwood), Bob Hoskins (Hook), Ray Winstone (The Departed), Toby Jones (The Mist), funny man Nick Frost (Attack the Block), and two other guys I’ve never heard of before (Johnny Harris, Atonement, and Brian Gleeson, Primeval). That’s some pretty great casting and it went largely unnoticed during the theatrical run of this film. The trailers and marketing materials didn’t really showcase these guys at all, which is really too bad as they’re all great.
The biggest problem with the film, other than you know everything that’s going to happen because you’ve seen this story since you were three years old, is the character of Snow White. I don’t like Kristen Stewart, and I would love to take this opportunity to lay it all on her, but she was fine. Really, she was ok. She didn’t have many lines to say, so it’s hard to really judge her acting ability when her direction is to look at someone or something with intensity. Sure, she could have perhaps kept her jaw from hanging open so often, but what’s a bored girl to do with all that time not acting? The issue I have with the character is she’s not really doing anything, yet this is billed as a film with a tough woman as a lead character. She’s supposed to be the hero, but she rarely talks. She’s supposed to be the one we feel for, but she’s lifeless. She’s supposed to be the one to motivate the masses, but she’s not given enough to do to make that believable. The character is underdeveloped and I suppose a better actress could have done more to enhance the role, but I don’t know that for sure. Given how well Charlize Theron did with her character, who had so little screen time compared to Stewart’s Snow White, I don’t know where the blame falls.
This film works for what it is. It’s got fun characters, some heart, good pacing, and a few stand out performances that just about anyone could enjoy. Of course, given the genre of this film, most people will need to know nothing more to decide if it’s up their alley or not. If you’re a fan of fantasy, this should be an easy choice. Even if you don’t like Kristen Stewart, this film is still worth a visit.
This is a stellar presentation. Presented in 2.35:1, as all fantasy epics should be presented, I cannot find a fault in this transfer. The world of Snow White is beautifully realized and reminds me of why I care about picture quality. Colors are vivid and the image is sharp. I can’t think of any way this image could really be improved with today’s technology. I’m not sure if the film was shot digitally or not, but with results like these it kind of makes the argument invalid.
What you’re getting here is a DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 mix and it works just as well as the picture quality. The surrounds could be utilized a little more to greater effect, but it’s possible that would tip the experience a little too far towards the unrealistic. The sound field for this film is realistically subtle but always clear. The LFE channel gets a nice workout but isn’t overbearing.
Conclusion and Recommendation
Snow White and the Huntsman is a technical knockout. It may not be the best demo worthy disc to add to your collection, but it does everything very well and is how blu-ray discs should be treated. The film itself is a little old hat with a few bells and whistles that don’t provide anything new, but add to the enjoyment. The acting is mostly above average for this type of genre film, with Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron really enjoying themselves. The titular role, however, is a bit of a letdown, regardless of your thoughts on Kristen Stewart. I really just don’t think she was given much to do, though it’s possible some of that could have ended up on the cutting room floor. This is a bit of a silly expression these days with editing going pretty much all digital. But whatever. I enjoyed the film despite some of the limitations. If you’re seeking something original, you won’t find it here, but what you do get is a great presentation of a fun film. Recommended.