SWATH awakens

Universal was brave choosing first-time feature director Rupert Sanders for "Snow White and the Huntsman," and the result is a muddled riff that wants to be "Lord of the Rings," "Braveheart," Robin Hood," "Willow" and "Alice in Wonderland" all at once. They beat the fairytale-revival ‪piñata‬ and this is what came out.  With Charlize Theron as the evil queen and Kristen Stewart as Snow White, we hoped for something gritty (within the confines of a PG-13 studio film) that would help empower its tween and teen girl demographic, taking the fairy tale in a feminist direction.

Basing an entire movie around the idea that Stewart is more beautiful and charismatic than Theron is problematic, and isn't believable for a second. Stewart was woefully miscast and given an unfairly heavy load to carry; the talent she has won't be highlighted in roles like this (or as Bella Swan in "Twilight") which continue to bury the spark we saw in 2007's "Into The Wild." Were Theron's Ravenna written with the depth it hints at in the beginning, audiences would likely find themselves rooting for her in the end over the lackluster Snow White, who is forced into saccharine CGI-settings with nothing to do but add some eye sparkle and would-be epic battle sequences that only highlight the narrative's failure to make her a believable leader to "end the darkness."

This is not a feminist take on Snow White, no matter how badly it wants to be. It tells us beauty is power, and then never successfully subverts that message because Stewart's Snow White is a stand-in for a heroine who could actually prove otherwise. A feminist retelling requires more than a girl riding a horse with pants and a sword and ending up with a crown on her head -- here these token images read as the consolation prize for an audience that is assumed to be stupid. Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman manages to bring what little soul there is ton the proceedings and the Seven Dwarfs provide a dash of diverting comic relief.  The cast does what they can given the cut-and-paste script and beautiful but overly stylized settings, but "Snow White and the Huntsman" is still a rotten apple.

Check out more reviews below:

SWATH fighting

THR: "This is a film of moments, of arresting visuals, marked seriousness, sometimes surprising imagination and with nothing on its mind, really, except to provide the conventional reassurance of installing a rightful royal on the throne. It's also a film in which you can't help but behold and compare the contrasting beauty of two of the most exceptional-looking women on the screen today, Stewart and Theron."

EW: "It's also a world-class illustration of how, in the age of the global blockbuster, the lust for demographics — for coralling the largest possible audience — can determine aesthetics. The movie works so hard to transform a quintessential girl story into a girl-and-guy story that it's like three movies in one. Theron, knowingly over-the-top, acts in a viciously charged and entertaining style...By the end, she's supposed to be playing Snow White as Joan of Arc meets Braveheart meets Katniss Everdeen, and she's less than authentic on all fronts."

Roger Ebert: "'Snow White and the Huntsman' reinvents the legendary story in a film of astonishing beauty and imagination. It's the last thing you would expect from a picture with this title. It falters in its storytelling, because Snow White must be entirely good, the Queen must be entirely bad, and there's no room for nuance. The end is therefore predetermined. But, oh, what a ride…There is a great film here somewhere, perhaps one that allowed greater complexity for the characters. But considering that I walked in expecting no complexity at all, let alone the visual wonderments, 'Snow White and the Huntsman' is a considerable experience."

Salon: "A lot of things go wrong in 'Snow White and the Huntsman,' so many that it’s surprising the film feels as exhilarating and entertaining as it finally does. The problems start with the central premise and the leading actress, but there are also the wobbly CGI effects, uncertain character arcs and unresolved subplots, not to mention the regional British Isles accents, which may be tough for American viewers to follow,..[Stewart] badly needs to get out of the business of playing storybook virginal princess types,..this Snow White — who is sometimes Bilbo Baggins (and sometimes his Ring), sometimes Luke Skywalker, sometimes Joan of Arc and sometimes Henry V — calls for both broad hambone instincts and a natural aristocratic bearing. Stewart possesses neither, looking and acting rather too much like a standoffish American girl faking a posh accent."

Boston Globe: "Charlize Theron gives a performance that fuses astonishing costumes (from multi-Oscar winner Colleen Atwood), alarming special effects, and overacting of a degree rarely seen these days. Theron can be an actress of wit and even subtlety, but it’s hard to bring nuance to a role that requires you to bellow 'YOU CANNOT DEFEAT ME!' a few scenes after emerging from an oil slick covered in crows,..After a while, you just sit back and let the thing wash over you, marveling and giggling as necessary,..[Sanders] has talent, conviction, and a knack for the arresting image; what he doesn’t have yet is any sense of how to craft a seamless two-hour narrative."

Miami Herald: "[Stewart] has a bum rap of being inexpressive and moribund as Bella in the Twilight movies. But at least she’s physically suited for that role. In Snow White and the Huntsman, this talented but woefully miscast actress is expected to rally an entire army of soldiers, even though she usually looks like she forgot the combination to her locker."

AV Club: "The greatest innovation Snow White And The Huntsman brings to its 'dark retelling' of the Snow White fairy tale is suggesting that its evil-queen antagonist (played by Charlize Theron) has a name, a past, and a purpose. And its biggest letdown comes when it abandons that idea entirely in order to turn her into yet another generic baddie, an impersonal wall of CGI special effects and grimaces for Snow White (Kristen Stewart) to throw herself against,..Huntsman feints at being the Snow White retelling no one has ever seen before, but ultimately becomes the 'been there, done that' of fairy-tale filmmaking."