Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

It's been years since there was a fresh retelling of a fairy tale. A dark, romantic epic tinged with magic is what Snow White & the Huntsman aspired to, and for the most part, succeeds in delivering in spite of its occasionally stiff acting.

The king of the realm reels in the wake of his wife's death. But his deep sorrow is quickly brushed aside when he rescues the beautiful Ravenna (Charlize Theron) from a demonic army. Twenty four hours later, he has married her, he is dead, and her wicked brother and his armies have marched into the kingdom. The king's daughter Snow White is locked up in a tower and forgotten for many years. Ravenna's rule depletes the kingdom of its beauty and magic, while she consumes the youth of other young women to survive. But when her magic mirror informs her that to live forever, she must eat the heart of Snow White (Kristen Stewart), the princess slips through their fingers. As Snow White has escaped into the dark forest, it will take a master Huntsman (Chris Helmsworth) to find her... a Huntsman promised the resurrection of his wife by the queen if he complies. Also intrigued in finding her is her childhood friend William (Sam Clafton). But there are forces in those woods neither anticipate.

The trailers promoted this as an action-packed epic in the tradition of The Lord of the Rings. My first time through, I wasn't convinced, since the acting leaves something to be desired, but it has grown on me with subsequent viewings. The script is surprisingly good, containing elements of humor but more often than not descending into darkness. This isn't your average fairy tale, since the queen's plight has a feminist slant (she hates men) while she preys on the beauty of young women in order to retain her magical authority. It never explains why Snow White is her counter-balance in the world, but by then the audience doesn't care. There are some good action sequences and the first time director has a lovely grasp on cinematography and unique (but never distracting) camera angles. Unfortunately, there isn't a lot of romantic tension between the three leads (the Prince, the Huntsman, and Snow White). It can also be violent and creepy at times. But for a modern twist on an age-old tale, it's memorable.

Sexual Content:

Twice, we see the queen's bare back (once, it is healthy, the second time it is skin and bones) and a bit of her upper chest. She bathes openly before her brother (incest is not implied, but their closeness can be seen as questionable). On her wedding night, her husband lays on top of her and kisses her throat until he dies. Veiled dialogue implies she was once raped, and intends to have her vengeance on all men. Her brother has a similar interest in Snow White.

Violence never becomes too grisly, although there are some grotesque transformations here and there (the queen ages rapidly in different scenes, when she is not sucking the life out of young women). Her brother meets a brutal (and deserved) end.  

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