Snow White and the Huntsman—movie review

Reviews
by Leonard Maltin
June 1, 2012 2:00 AM
26 Comments
  • |

Alex Bailey - Universal Pictures
Sometimes, while I’m watching a bad movie, one burning question arises: “What were they thinking?” That’s what I asked myself while suffering through Snow White and the Huntsman, a putrid, and seemingly endless, retelling of the famous fairy tale. Grim and gruesome, it’s a soul-sucking two-hour-plus endurance test that parents should avoid taking their kids to see except as an extreme form of punishment.

I can’t imagine who the filmmakers envisioned as their target audience. Is it a date movie? I don’t think so. It’s really not for children, either, unless they happen to be members of the Addams Family. Why? Early in the story (spoiler alert!) we actually see the evil Queen plunge an enormous dagger into Snow White’s father’s chest. That’s mild compared to the dark doings that follow, from closeups of icky insects and dead birds to a village of women and children cruelly set ablaze.

Charlize Theron plays the ravenous, narcissistic queen without an iota of shading or nuance. It is certainly her loudest performance, but the constant shouting grows tiresome. Kristen Stewart does her best as the pure, innocent Snow White, and Chris Hemsworth is beefy and likable as the huntsman who becomes her protector. If you don’t walk out of the movie (as I was sorely tempted to do) you’ll eventually get to meet the seven dwarfs, who are played, in a bit of movie magic, by such familiar full-sized British actors as Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Toby Jones, and Eddie Marsan. This touch of whimsy is welcome but comes too late to rescue the dark-hearted movie.

The screenplay is credited to three separate writers, which is usually the sign of a long or troubled production. Given the ponderous nature of this film, and its refusal to come to a conclusion, it may simply be that the producers used all of their material. The director, Rupert Sanders, is known for his TV commercials, which should have taught him something about brevity.

Universal Pictures
Incidentally, if you’re wondering why we’re being punished with a parade of revisionist fairy tales, the apparent reason is that Hollywood sensed a hit in the making when Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland went into production, and wound up making a huge pile of money two years ago. That got various producers thinking that the world was eager to see new renderings of Red Riding Hood, Hansel and Gretel, and a string of other public-domain fairy tales and fables…but it’s cockeyed logic. I suspect most people went to see Alice because it looked appealing and featured Johnny Depp as the Mad Hatter.

The only positive thought I can muster is that this movie will never eclipse Walt Disney’s animated classic, which has brought joy to millions of viewers for the past 75 years. Disney was brilliant in his juxtaposition of light and dark story elements, but he never let the dark side overtake his films. That’s why we feel a surge of happiness when goodness triumphs at the end. Snow White and the Huntsman simply stops, and I felt nothing except relief.

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26 Comments

  • 10z3r | August 31, 2012 7:14 AMReply

    I've just seen the movie moments ago. Really awful. Kristen Stewart or whatever is her name, is such a poor actress I can't believe all her success (I won't say anything about her ugliness this time). Of course the director wanted a rapid one, or perhaps has the same taste because this film is in fact his baby, but a deformed one. With a decent director, this movie could have been a way lot better. Certainly the director whoever he is, really loved The Lord of the Rings and Luc Besson's Joan D'arc, for moments he tried and only got some worthless copycat scenes' tries of those 2 films. He failed, and failed, and failed again, and... here we go again with another defeat, while filming this... crap. I would be surprised if someone would give him another huge (in budget but not in quality) movie. (Relax with my grammar and vocabulary I am a Spaniard who's never have been in UK or USA).

  • Elly | July 8, 2012 5:34 PMReply

    Just saw it today. It was so boring that I wanted to leave halfway through, but I stayed because the ticket too expensive for me to potentially miss the moment when It Gets Better, which never came.
    I have only one good thing to say... the people who put together the trailer were masters of seduction.

  • mike schlesinger | July 3, 2012 5:17 PMReply

    Finally caught up with this, and all I can say is: Leonard, you were too kind!

    Well, and this: Theron is a guaranteed winner in any Shatner impression contest: "I...WANT...HER...FOUND!!!!!!!!!!"

  • Sanya | June 25, 2012 12:14 AMReply

    I found this movie quite dark for my taste. I’m a firm lover of romantic flicks. I went to Waves to watch this movie in the hope that I’ll get a little bit of fairytale effect. But to my dismay couldn’t find it. Moreover, Kristen Stewart was totally blaah!!! Not really one of my best movies!

  • Comments claire baker | June 24, 2012 10:51 AMReply

    I wished I'd read your review Leonard before going to see this film with my 12 year old daughter - I HAVE just walked out of this Snow White after 30 minutes of shocking gore AND wasted £14! It was definitely NOT suitable for a young audience - nothing was left to the imagination! Feel angry and cheated!

  • Dirk | June 23, 2012 10:39 AMReply

    Try watching Prometheus before you see this movie. You'll like Snow White better. I thought this was a perfectly entertaining retelling of the story. It's certainly not Disney.

  • mister rengerz | June 22, 2012 5:16 PMReply

    Yeah, boy! LM, layin' the smack-ith down on this flick!

  • Stephen Saldanha | June 21, 2012 4:00 AMReply

    I agree with everything here, the story is incredibly boring, apart from Nick Frost non of the characters are likable and if I had one good thing to say about this film it would be the CGI, I think they did a pretty good job with one.

  • Teri | June 6, 2012 4:53 AMReply

    Mr. Maltin thank you for saying exactly how I felt! On other sites folks are going on and on about how great this movie is and I have to step back and ask, "did they see a different version?" LOL Awful and very disappointing. Thank you for telling us what is really was!

  • Matthew | June 4, 2012 5:45 AMReply

    Mr. Maltin is very correct. This movie was horrible. Even as the main character Kristen never had more then one sentence for lines, save one monologue scene. This movie is lacking in plot, and charlieze theron seems to be so mad in this movie. Apparently she knew how bad it would turn out.

  • Andrew | June 3, 2012 1:50 AMReply

    Mr. Maltin, don't take this the wrong way, because you're one of my favorite film critics. I highly respect your opinion. But how can you be so hard on this film for being so dark, yet give Snow White: A Tale Of Terror "even darker" 3 stars? I don't get it? I saw this film last night and I thought it was great! And for dealing with such dark subject matter, it was never grim, atleast for me. Even Roger Ebert and Richard Roeper gave it highly positive reviews, but everyone reacts to films defferently. We disagree on this film sharply, but your still one of my favorite critics! =)

  • mike schlesinger | June 1, 2012 8:35 PMReply

    I suspect MIRROR MIRROR is looking a bit better now! ;-)

  • Tom Murphy | June 1, 2012 6:54 PMReply

    To those who thank LM for saving them from this film, never let one man's opinion prevent u from seeing a film. U will lose out. As 4 SWATH, it was never meant 2b a kid film. It is 4 adults. I found it well made & very good. That's 2 good films 4 Hemsworth.

  • Norbert | June 17, 2012 6:13 PM

    How a movie with 1 dimensional characters that uses a you have to listen to me character (Hoskins) to push the plot forward can be regarded as good? Not to mention the battle scenes in this 170m$ movie looked far worse then the ones in the 65m$ 6.5 times longer Game of Thrones.

  • Tom Murphy | June 4, 2012 9:28 PM

    For u aristocrats, I used today's lexicon for fear of running out character space. I hope this satisfies your need for the Queen's English. Now, try commenting on the ideas I expressed.

  • Jessica | June 3, 2012 11:53 PM

    Right there with you, George.

  • George P | June 2, 2012 8:12 AM

    I am more likely to heed the opinion of someone who can write in English.

  • Norm | June 1, 2012 6:22 PMReply

    Really find the comments interesing, Pro & Con...The people who found the movie viewable aren't put off by the violence and darkness...Hhmmm...The people who agree with LM probably share the same values...I propose a compromise...A Double Bill of " Snow White & The Huntsman and the Original film, " I Spit on Your Grave." Just in time for the holidays...What A treat...

  • Cher | June 1, 2012 5:32 PMReply

    Just caught SWATH and enjoyed it overall. While the pacing was a little slow at times, the visual effects were very well done and Kristen Stewart carried off the role of warrior girl Snow White quite well. The movie could have used a bit more romance, humor or suspense, and more Chris Hemsworth, but it was generally entertaining.

  • Nat Segaloff | June 1, 2012 4:41 PMReply

    Gee, Leonard, you took this movie personally. And you were quite right that Walt never let the darkness overwhelm the light, which is as astute observation given that the Grimm, Andersen, Perrault, Arabian Nights, Chinese, and other classic fairy tales are essentially dark but (here's my point) tend to go with the light characters. This is why 007 movies always take Bond's side, not the villains' (except for Austin Powers). Turning a narrative fabric inside-out only works if there's a silver lining (sorry).

  • Jim Reinecke | June 1, 2012 4:03 PMReply

    Sounds as if even SNOW WHITE AND THE THREE STOOGES would be preferable to this mess! (There. . .I kept it brief and I've never directed a commercial in my life!)

  • Lillian | June 1, 2012 3:41 PMReply

    Thank you Leonard for giving me over 2 extra hours of life...I was thinking of seeing Snow White,
    but already had doubts. Thanks for the gift of time.
    LILLIAN

  • Alex | June 1, 2012 3:13 PMReply

    I don't know if you are oblivious, but they never said this was a kid friendly movie.
    It's obvious that from the trailer, it was a darker, less "disney" and more of Grimm's version of the fairytale.

  • Jenna | June 1, 2012 4:38 AMReply

    Wow, just got home from seeing SWATH and I loved it. Although I love the classic fairy tales too it never occurred to me that this would be anything like the classic Walt Disney fairy tale. Particularly, since all the promos leading up were pretty clear this is not the Snow White you grew up with, nor did I want it to be. I'm not really interested in full-on remakes of classics. This was a film I've never watched before-fresh, dark, with a Joan of Arc kinda feel. Most films lately seem regurgitated and stale with the same kind of crazy effects, but not this. This was was so beautiful, and the effects were new and visually stimulating. Love the original and hold it dear. So, I'm grateful this team didn't try to put together anything like it. This is exactly what I was looking for and it exceeded my expectations. Always appreciate your reviews, but I respectfully disagree.

  • Scott | June 19, 2012 12:40 PM

    Thank you, Jenna! Well stated! Most of us know Leonard Maltin is obsessed with Disney, but why he feels the need to compare this fairy tale adaptation to the Disney version in such a perplexing manner is beyond me.

  • lightfandango | June 1, 2012 4:33 AMReply

    Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Bob Hoskins and Toby Jones!!! WHY PEOPLE WHY? Your all way to good for junk like this.

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