BLU-RAY REVIEW: Snow White & the Huntsman
Universal's Updated Fairy Tale Comes to Hi-Def Home Video...
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It seems original ideas are somewhat hard to come by in Hollywood these days so it's no surprise studios have taken to classic fairy tales for new film projects. Last year's Red Riding Hood was followed quickly by Mirror Mirror as well as other forthcoming movies, including Maleficent, Jack the Giant Killer and Hansel and Gretel. One of the more well received this year was Snow White & the Huntsman, an adaptation and retelling by first time feature film writer Evan Daugherty, Blind Side and Alamo writer/director John Lee Hancock, Drive writer Hossein Amini and first time feature film director Rupert Sanders. With lofty goals to recreate and retell the classic German fairy tale originally made popular by the Brothers Grimm in 1812, these filmmakers had their work cut out for them from the start.
Starring Twilight's Kirsten Stewart as the title character Snow White, Thor's Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman, and Prometheus' Charlize Theron as the evil queen Ravenna, Snow White & the Huntsman provides moviegoers with a new look at the classic tale retold for a modern film audience who's grown up on Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy and the Twilight film series. And while Snow White & the Huntsman maybe isn't completely original, it's at least entertaining and fun.
The film's storyline is well known as are the characters: a queen longs for a daughter and is given Snow White, the fairest in all the land. Sadly, her mother dies and her father the King remarries. Her new, evil step-mother is jealous of the young princess' beauty and, following the King's death, takes over the land, declares herself ruler of all, and seeks to kill Snow White. Now this is where the various versions of the story begin to differ and Snow White & the Huntsman too differs from the other versions as the Huntsman here isn't a loyal servant of the queen, but a drunkard widower and ex-soldier who's lost everything and seeks only to live a life of solace...when he's not in a bar fight. Likewise, Snow White is seeking to simply stay alive as a prisoner of the evil queen. Of course, when the queen learns she can have immortality by consuming Snow White's life force, the young princess is marked for death, but not before making her escape into the Enchanted Forest, where few have traveled and even fewer have survived.
This new adaptation of the classic finds audiences impressed during moments featuring gorgeous special effects, brought to you by the fine folks at Mill Visual Effects Studio, and a few moments of decent character development which provide insight into the life of the Huntsman and the Evil Queen Ravenna. Unfortunately, Kristen Stewart's acting is - at best - par for the course from this somewhat popular but less skilled actress. Likewise, other cast members, including Prince William's Sam Claflin (Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides), are decent at best. The best acting in the film is from Theron, who plays the Evil Queen Ravenna with a malicious, angry, and sadistic fervor which seems nearly psychotic at times.
The dwarfs of course make their appearance and provide some fun moments as well, though unfortunately their parts are less the focus in Snow White & the Huntsman. Instead, the focus of this particular version of the story is on the somewhat strange relationship between the titular characters Snow White and the Huntsman. This isn't all bad, but the pair's chemistry on scene isn't as impressive as expected and seems forced at times, confusing at others, and even somewhat disturbing near the end. Some critics have criticized the film's script and pace, but the dry acting and odd character relationships is what makes this, for me, less than I'd imagined.
As for picture and sound quality, this is one thing Universal delivers. With a gorgeous 1080p hi-def transfer which provides plenty of contrast and awe-inspiring visuals, Snow White & the Huntsman looks and sounds great. The magical kingdom come to life, the effects are beautifully captured, and the colors pop off the screen. Director Rupert Sanders' retelling takes on a mysterious, bewitching, and haunting appearance - especially the Enchanted Forest - thanks to the special effects. There's no doubt fans of the fairy tale will love the way this film looks on blu-ray. As for audio, the film's DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround sound track provides an amazing mix filled with effects which put home viewers right in the middle of the film's action. Whispering winds, screeching dragons, cawing crows, shattering knights, and flying fairies and angry axemen dynamically come through the speakers and fill the soundstage. The dialogue too is clear and present, though seems slightly less pronounced than the effects, making it sometimes difficult to hear. Otherwise, the overall audio is excellent and well done.
As for special features, the blu-ray includes two versions of the film, a 127-minute theatrical cut and a 131-minute extended edition; an audio commentary with director Rupert Sanders, visual effects supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and co-editor Neil Smith, who speak to the film's development, casting, design, and more; the U-Control Picture in Picture supplement track, which provides short snippets of background and developer information throughout the film; the Second Screen Experience, which is a more in-depth behind-the-scenes experience for fans to have on their tablet or PC with the pocket BLU app; and the fun "Around the Kingdom: 360° Set Tour," which shows viewers around the film's various sets, including "King Magnus' Courtyard," "Village Near Castle Tabor," "Duke Hammond's Castle Encampment," "Queen Raveena's Throne Room" and "Queen Raveena's Mirror Room."
Other special features include the 21-minute "A New Legend is Born," which shows director Sanders, producer Joe Roth and cast and crew talking about specific details on the film's development and production; the short 6-minute "Reinventing the Fairy Tale," which explores the film's use of the classic fairy tale archtype and the original story by the Brothers Grimm; the 23-minute "Citizens of the Kingdom," a four-part featurette which focuses on the various characters, including "Fairest of Them All: Snow White," "Deliciously Evil: Queen Ravenna," "The Huntsman" and "Motley Crew: The Dwarves." Lastly, the 13-minute "The Magic of Snow White and the Huntsman" shows how the film's special effects were brought to life.
Overall, Snow White & the Huntsman, while impressive to look at and listen to, could be seen as a less than stellar success. What it lacked in pacing and acting it made up for in special effects, costume design, and character actors. The film made money and has even caused a sequel to enter pre-production. Of course, it's also go down in history as the movie that split up Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. All that aside, Snow White & the Huntsman will - for most moviegoers - make for an easily enjoyable and fun way to spend two hours.
Snow White & the Huntsman is rated PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality and is available on blu-ray hi-def and DVD wherever fine home video is sold.
- Jess C. Horsey
"Until next time...have FUN with your figures!!"
Jess C. Horsley