Snow White and the Huntsman is visually stunning, with plenty of magical creatures that evoke Guillermo Del Toro’s creations. Sadly, the writing and acting undercut the visual spectacle. Kristen Stewart wears the look of nauseated unease that she has in all her films, and her limited range as an actor is especially apparent when Snow White gives a speech meant to inspire her supporters to rise up against the evil queen. The scene falls flat, thanks to uninspired writing and Stewart’s forced performance: she doesn’t seem to truly believe what she’s saying, and she’s unable to convey the necessary sense of power. Stewart showed promise in Panic Room, and I like her performances in offbeat fare like Adventureland, but she’s miscast as the damsel in a romantic period piece. She’s most believable as a no-nonsense, rather awkward tomboy, and although there’s room for those qualities in this film’s take on Snow White as an occasional warrior, the writing and Stewart’s limited range keep her from really committing to that choice.
I can’t shake the impression that Chris Hemsworth is kind of boring; that’s why I didn’t watch Thor, and his performance in The Avengers didn’t really convince me otherwise. He reveals some personality and wry humor as the Huntsman, but, during a speech meant to reveal his character’s backstory, Hemsworth’s performance is rather shallow. Charlize Theron is more successful as Ravenna, the evil queen. The film suggests that her evilness stems from a sort of psychosis and an obsession with the idea of female victimization in a patriarchal, hierarchical society. Theron has fun with this dark backstory, although Ravenna’s malice can feel forced at times.
The film offers up a who’s who of British character actors in the roles of the dwarves, including Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, and Toby Jones. In contrast to the lead performers, they’re skilled at imbuing a single word or look with meaning, menace, or humor, while making it look effortless.
Snow White and the Huntsman is visually compelling, but its narrative and writing are less intriguing. I know it’s unfair to compare a two-hour film with the long-form television format, but all the talk about Snow White being the rightful heir just because her father was king feels simplistic when compared to the multiple claims to power, complex scheming, and backstabbing that unfold every week on Game of Thrones.