The second of two Snow White movies this year, “Snow White and the Huntsman” is certainly better than "Mirror Mirror," but that wouldn't have taken much. That said, it's really not that special either.
Much like Julia Roberts in "Mirror Mirror," the best element here is the villain, this time played by Charlize Theron. Her wicked queen Ravenna meets and marries Snow White's recently widowed father, then quickly kills him and takes over the kingdom. This bodes ill for everyone, as the residents become poor and desperate as a result of her tyranny, and the land quickly becomes lifeless and barren.
Meanwhile, Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is locked into a tower as a child and forgotten, until Ravenna discovers that consuming her heart will make her immortal. Now a young woman, Snow White escapes into the Dark Forest, and The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) is dispatched to track her down. He opts instead to take her to safety, where her (very handsome) childhood friend William just happens to be part of the resistance and sets out to find her once he hears that she is alive. This results in a love triangle that feels like a cynical ploy to get more of Kristen Stewart's Twilight fans into the theater. At least with Twilight people believed in it enough to pick teams.
Speaking of Stewart, she certainly has a lot to prove here, namely that she can actually play something other than the wilting violet Bella Swan that is source of both her greatest success and criticism. So much of the movie depends on her, and sadly, she mostly fails to rise to the challenge, which results in a Snow White that is less than compelling. And if a vehicle like this can't bring the fire out of her, then we'll just have to keep looking at Jennifer Lawrence to give us a heroine worth rooting for. (“The Hunger Games” is certainly one franchise we don't have to feel guilty about enjoying.)
But as mentioned before, Charlize Theron certainly doesn't disappoint. She portrays her wicked queen as a somewhat sympathetic, yet still deliciously evil villain who has been twisted by both the wrongs that were done to her and the ones she's done to herself. (Stewart, take notes: this is called acting.) She is both formidable and impossible to take your eyes off of, whether she disposes of her foes with her magical prowess or hand-to-hand combat.
The effects are wonderful and complement the story, but it certainly doesn't help that said story can get bogged down and uneven. Some of the lines that were supposed to be inspiring feel unnecessary and the big speeches leave me wanting more, and the final battle feels too rushed after all the buildup.
The movie also occasionally tries too hard. In the first five minutes, it's mentioned that the Snow White's mother wants a child who's beautiful, yet also as strong as the rose blooming in the frost. The resulting child, Snow White, it's said, is also admired as much for her spirit as for her looks. Yeah, we all know that the fairy tale didn't give a crap about her spirit, only her looks, and she was only there to be rescued. Rein it in people, and move on. Because when they do, it can occasionally provide you with an enjoyable experience.