Fairytale shows are the new Viagra – massively produced things that seem to only be on the up and up. Just one difference, films like “Snow White and the Hunstman” are doing gangbusters at the box office, and Grimm small-screen series like “Once Upon A Time” are working their magic on Nielsen boxes, so there’s no chance of this suddenly-popular sun genre going limp anytime soon.
“Huntsman” is one of two films released in the past six months based on the legend of pale fruit-lover Snow White. And while the Universal release and Sony’s “Mirror Mirror”, the first out of the gate, of course stick to the classic storyline of a young orphan and her dwarf pals being terrorized by a bitchy stepmother with complexion and self-esteem issues, they couldn’t be any more different in tone and drive.
“Mirror, Mirror” was the airplane version of “Huntsman” if you will – all the unsettling parts chopped out from the yarn, turning the fluff volume up instead. It was in essence a camp comedy.
Director Rupert Sanders’ “Huntsman” is determined to show you the darkened decaying guts of that poisonous apple and the icky results of its consumption.
Taking a page out of say, “Robin Hood : Prince of Thieves” or “King Arthur”, “Huntsman” wears a palette as dark as its story. Its lens is smeared with mud, rather than ejaculating in coloured goo, and it plays decidedly gloomy rather than gratuitously juvenile. Guess you’d say it’s a “Snow White” movie made for those teenagers who considered whitey’s classic chronicle ‘too childish’ a yarn when compared to their “Hunger Games” and “Twilight”s.
In the second of her two sinister roles this year, Charlize Theron plays the cold-as-ice Queen. Seemingly engrossed in the maniacal and vain murderer’s inner struggle, she gives a performance a notch above the usual holiday fare variety. Furthermore, her jewel-encrusted bitch is – much like other aspects of the movie – bloody frightening at times. Nothing like the big-haired evil tyrants from the Disney books, this is a sinister imp who sucks the youth out of children (literally) and is giddy with excitement at the prospect of possibly holding young Snow’s heart in her hands one day.
Kristen Stewart, in a part that is – contrary to what some might say or be mislead into thinking by a marketing campaign weighing heavily on the characters frown and fight – quite a departure from her “Twilight” turn, plays Snow like a frightened puppy dog who little by little learns how to turn her bark into a bite. Not as feisty as her other characters, nor as angsty, the newly-crowned queen of tween cinema serves up a performance that will convince the sceptics the girl has got… something.
Chris Hemsworth doesn’t have the spotlight shoved as much in his face here as he did in “Thor”, but he too seems to be on a mission to forget he’s doing a fairytale (he apparently based his accent and performance on some of the famed Tolkien characters of film and print) and attempts to fool his acting elbow into believing he’s part of a Jason Reitman-staged reading of ‘Braveheart’. Just about works.
Not a heck of a lot of chemistry between Stewart and Hemsworth, but they do make for a pretty, good-looking couple. And considering how grim a lot of the film is, tonally, some prettiness doesn’t go astray.
Bit like a college swingers orgy, “Huntsman” isn’t anything you’ll remember the next day but it does seem to have both young men and women taken care of.