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Snow White and the Huntsman
Director: Rupert Sanders
Screenplay: Evan Daugherty and John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini (screen story by Evan Daugherty)
Stars: Kristen Stewart (Snow White), Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman), Charlize Theron (Ravenna), Sam Claflin (William), Sam Spruell (Finn), Ian McShane (Beith), Bob Hoskins (Muir), Ray Winstone (Gort), Nick Frost (Nion), Eddie Marsan (Duir), Toby Jones (Coll), Johnny Harris (Quert), Brian Gleeson (Gus), Vincent Regan (Duke Hammond), Noah Huntley (King Magnus), Liberty Ross (Queen Eleanor), Christopher Obi (Mirror Man)
MPAA Rating: PG-13
Year of Release: 2012
Country: U.S.
Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-Ray
Snow White and the Huntsman Snow White and the Huntsman, the latest cinematic incarnation of the medieval German fairy tale, hews close in tone to the version told by the Grimm Brothers in the early 19th century, but adds plenty of modern action and bluster to bring the story more in line with the media tastes that turned Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings film trilogy and HBO’s Game of Thrones series into massive hits. First-time director Rupert Sanders, a veteran of British commercials and music videos, gives the film’s visual palette a heavy dose of grim stylization, thus adding a few additional shades of darkness to the story’s gritty reinterpretation by first-time screenwriter Evan Daugherty and veterans John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side) and Hossein Amini (Drive).

The first half of the story sticks fairly close to, but also elaborates on, the Grimm Brothers’ version, beginning with the birth of Snow White to King Magnus (Noah Huntley) and Queen Eleanor (Liberty Ross), whose desire for a daughter comes after pricking her finger and bleeding three drops of blood into the snow. Alas, Eleanor dies and Magnus is tricked into marrying Ravenna (Charlize Theron), a beguiling beauty with dark magical powers who immediately kills him and assumes the throne. Ravenna is a particularly embittered soul whose anger stems primarily from the way that men use, abuse, and discard women for their beauty (a point that, sadly enough, the film’s director confirmed extracinematically with his much-publicized adulterous smooch-fest with his much younger lead actress). Ravenna maintains her youth and beauty by literally sucking the lifeforce out of other women, which provides the film with an interesting metaphor for the way that women are often forced to turn on each other in order to maintain their position in a patriarchal society. She is, of course, deeply jealous of the king’s now-grown daughter, Snow White (Kristen Stewart, surely cast to draw in the legions of Twilight fans), “the fairest of them all” according to her magic mirror (which is cleverly reimagined as a creepy hooded figure that flows out of the reflective surface).

Ravenna decides to lock Snow White away in the castle, and when she eventually escapes and disappears into the Dark Forest, she enlists the aid of a Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track her down and kill her, especially after she learns that she will achieve immortal youth by eating Snow White’s heart. The Huntsman agrees to this villainous act only because Ravenna promises to bring his wife back from the dead, but he still can’t bring himself to follow through on the act, and instead teams with Snow White in a rebellion against the queen. In this endeavor they are aided by William (Sam Claflin), Snow White’s childhood friend-turned-revolutionary warrior, and eight dwarves they meet in the forest, all of whom are played by familiar, non-height-challenged British character actors (Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones, Johnny Harris, and Brian Gleeson). The dwarves are a motley bunch of bandits and outsiders, a far cry from the goofy-innocent comic relief the characters played in Disney’s 1937 animated film (although they do supply a few good one-liners). And, while they trade in apple cheeks for scraggly beards and character-descriptive monikers for gritty names like Muir, Gort, and Gus, they are never on-screen long enough to develop much as individual characters.

In short, Snow White and the Huntsman is long on blood and thunder and relatively short on emotional engagement. The idea is to rework a familiar tale into something both modern and classical, and Sanders does a fine job of rendering the film’s visuals in a way that stays true to the story’s essence while also clearly locating them in the modern world of CGI mayhem. The film is filled to the brim with detailed production design and expensive money shots, whether it be a giant troll crashing after Snow White and the Huntsman, an army of warriors composed of constantly shifting obsidian shards, or long tracking shots of Snow White’s army thundering down a dour stretch of beach toward the queen’s heavily fortified castle. There is plenty of sound and fury and it’s all rendered for maximum impact, but the film never really hits home because Stewart’s Snow White is such a dud. Although intended to be a strong-willed adolescent-on-the-cusp-of-womanhood, thus aligning her with the feminist re-envisioning of Alice in Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland (2010), Stewart’s character is too dull and muddled to really care about, which means that our attention is usually drawn either to Hemsworth’s earthy Huntsman, who has a genuine sense of tragedy and anger about him, or Theron’s Ravenna, whose villainy is both deliciously campy and oddly endearing. Far from a one-note wicked queen, she layers her nefariousness with rage and resentment, making her the kind of engaging, full-blooded character that Snow White should be, but never is.

Snow White and the Huntsman Blu-Ray + DVD + Digital Copy and Ultraviolet Combo Pack
The two-disc Combo Pack includes both the original theatrical version and an Extended Edition of the film.
Aspect Ratio2.35:1
Audio
  • English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround
  • English Dolby Digital 2.0 stereo
  • Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1
  • French DTS Digital Surround 5.1
  • SubtitlesEnglish, French, Spanish
    Supplements
  • Audio commentary by director Rupert Sanders, visual effects supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and co-editor Neil Smith
  • “A New Legend Is Born” featurette
  • “Reinventing the Fairy Tale” featurette
  • “Citizens of the Kingdom” featurettes
  • “The Magic of Snow White and the Huntsman” featurette
  • “Around the Kingdom” 360° set tour
  • Universal’s Second Screen interactive viewing option
  • DistributorUniversal Pictures Home Entertainment
    SRP$34.98
    Release DateSeptember 11, 2012

    VIDEO & AUDIO
    Snow White and the Huntsman is presented in a fine 1080p high-definition transfer that allows us to appreciate all of the detail in the film’s terrific production design and meticulous CGI effects. Make no mistake, this is an exceedingly dark film that is long on gloom and shadows, but the transfer handles the darkness superbly, rendering excellent shadow detail in even the dimmest portions of the frame. When present, primary colors are beautifully saturated, although clearly to a point that is stylistically heightened beyond reality (most notably in the enchanted forest sequence). The lossless DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1-channel surround soundtrack is full of sound and fury, enveloping us in galloping horses, clanging swords, and roaring creatures. The low-frequency channel gets a sturdy workout, and it seemed like the surround channels were in constant use in generating and sustaining a complete aural environment.
    SUPPLEMENTS
    Befitting a big-budget film with a complex production history, the supplements on Snow White and the Huntsman are both broad and deep. There is a great deal of information about the film’s production in the detailed audio commentary by director Rupert Sanders, visual effects supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, and co-editor Neil Smith, each of whom sheds light on his respective contributions to the film. In addition to the commentary, there is plenty of production information in the three behind-the-scenes featurettes: “A New Legend Is Born,” “Reinventing the Fairy Tale,” and “The Magic of Snow White and the Huntsman.” While the first two focus quite a bit on the pre-production processes of writing and visual design (sets, costumes, character design, etc.), the third featurette takes us into the details of the film’s special effects. There is also a series of short mini-featurettes about the various characters organized as “Citizens of the Kingdom” and an “Around the Kingdom” 360° set tour. Those with a laptop or tablet computer can also take advantage of Universal’s “Second Screen” viewing experience, which allows you watch the film and simultaneously engage with additional supplements such as “Flick View,” in which you can move content from the tablet to the TV screen, and compare storyboards, animatics, etc.; watch behind-the-scenes material using picture-in-picture; and explore the 360° set tour

    Overall Rating: (2.5)

    Thoughts? E-mail James Kendrick

    All images copyright © Universal Pictures Home Entertainment


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