I'm not a big fan of fairy tale retellings.
Wait, am I supposed to explain that now? I guess I'm just a little too mature, all right? When I'm enjoying my sophisticated stories about dragons and orcs, I don't need any childish foolishness about wicked stepsisters and Princes Charming. Also, and more truthfully, I feel like I've already heard the story a hundred times, probably because I've already heard the story a hundred times.
Which means I stopped caring about the Wicked Witch's real motivations around when I was five years old. Perhaps this prejudice of mine is why I didn't get much out of the fairy-tale-turned-epic Snow White and the Huntsman. But there is also the possibility it just isn't very good.
Following the death of her father the king, princess Kristen Stewart (as Snow White) is imprisoned by her father's killer -- stepmother Charlize Theron. Years later, Theron discovers that if she takes Stewart's life, she can finally attain ageless beauty.
But Stewart escapes into the Dark Forest. Theron dispatches huntsman Chris Hemsworth to hunt Stewart down, but after Theron betrays him, Hemsworth pledges to protect Stewart instead. If Stewart can make it to safety, she's the only one who can bring down Theron's poisonous reign.
Snow White and the Huntsman is pretty crummy in a lot of ways. First and foremost is the characterization, which ranges from "weak" to "couldn't lift itself off the couch without the aid of a homemade crane and a well-trained dog." Many modern fairy tale retellings turn things on their ear by taking archetypal characters and fleshing them out with distinct personalities. Not Snow White! Instead, it boldly makes all its characters as one-note as a whistle. In the case of Snow White herself, I'm not even positive she's human and not some sort of clockwork lip-biting machine.
So I didn't particularly give a damn about the characters. Not the most effective recipe in the world. Unless you are creating a recipe for training theatergoers how to check the time on their cell phones in the dark. (You have to wait for a daytime scene or an explosion and then kind of tilt it.)
The plotting and pacing isn't the stuff of legends, either. Snow White kicks off with an honored fantasy staple: the narrated prologue. But while Fellowship of the Ring used it to deliver a bunch of ancient yet relevant history, Snow White tries to do that and introduce nearly all of its main characters. Guess what gets short shrift? Did you guess "everything"? Gold star! An imaginary gold star for you.
Once Stewart escapes and Hemsworth partners up with her, it becomes an epic saga of walking. To some barony far, far away, across a land peopled with all kinds of fantasy cliches like dwarves and white stags and little fairies that are supposed to be cute but are actually hideous little nightmare-children. Then, it's time for the epic battle that's apparently been brewing this whole time. Not that the trio of writers go out of their way to set that up. No big deal. Just deciding the fate of the kingdom over here.
God help me, though, even though we're talking about a poorly plotted film populated by flimsy characters and stock fantasy tropes, I kind of enjoyed myself.
Part of it is that first-time director Rupert Sanders has made this thing look gorgeous. Even the gross stuff is beautiful. He could film a dog struggling with epic dysentery and you would say "Wow, that makes me want to dive right in." In fantasy, much of the appeal comes from the immersion of the world. Snow White has the look.
But now I'm trying to figure out what else I particularly liked about it, and the answer is "Nick Frost plays a dwarf." I don't think I can recommend it on the strength of that alone. Snow White stuffs an old myth into the framework of generic Lord of the Rings-style epic fantasy. It's very pretty. If that sounds like a fun way to pass the afternoon, have at it.