Snow White & the Huntsman

Be warned, this is not your familiar cute and cuddly, sugar coated Disney version of the well-known fairy tale, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937). If you have ever read an original classic fairy tale, you know they are not so heartwarming and loveable. Fairy tales were intended as serious morality fables meant to warn and instruct us, especially children, about the darker side of human nature. This dire and more sinister action adventure version of Snow White reminds us of the power that the original Brothers Grimm tales still have over us.

When the queen of a kingdom dies shortly after giving birth to a beautiful daughter who has 'skin as white as snow, lips as red as blood and hair as black as a raven’s wings', the King is grief-stricken and must raise his daughter alone. Years later he finds and marries another woman who turns out to be a wicked, deceitful witch, killing the King soon after their wedding, and plunging the kingdom into darkness.

Like most folk tales, this story was meant as a cautionary tale for children and adults, warning against overprotecting children, making them unprepared for the real world and easily deceived by others when they have to fend for themselves and cope with danger. It can also be seen as a coming of age tale as daughter competes and comes in conflict with her mother for the affections of a father and husband. 

The vain witch Queen, Ravenna, has the power to prolong her life and stay beautiful by eating the hearts of birds and consuming the youth of women. She consults a magical mirror and perceives the slain King’s daughter as a threat to her power when the mirror tells her that Snow White is the fairest in the land. She decides to lock her up in a tower in order to one day consume her heart.

This movie accurately depicts the brutal primitive time period of legendary Dark Age Europe with creepy dark forests, medieval castles, Tree Trolls, enchanted forests full of fairies and woodland creatures, and the seven dwarves as wild woodmen. Visually, the movie is a mix of Ridley Scott’s Legend (1986) and Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings (2001), filmed in scenic locations around Scotland, Wales and England, that give it a natural and believable look. Even some of the more fantastic elements of the story are grounded in reality, making the experience very immersive and authentic. 

When Snow White escapes her castle prison, the envious Ravenna hires a huntsman to find her in the dark forest. The original story is quite grim and gruesome as the cannibalistic Queen demands that the huntsman cut out Snow White’s heart and liver as proof of her death, which she then intends to eat, believing it will rejuvenate her by absorbing the essence of Snow White’s beauty. 

The wicked step-mother Queen is played brilliantly by Charlize Theron with a show stealing performance. Her beauty is matched only by her sadistic envy. Snow White, as played by Kristen Stewart from the Twilight series, is not the passive, submissive homemaker of the original folktale. In this more exciting and emotionally satisfying tale of sorrow and longing, Snow White grows into a strong and determined warrior princess who leads an army of loyal men, in a brave attack on the wicked Queen to regain her father’s throne. She looks at times to be a Joan of Arc type of strong female presence and reflects a more contemporary role model for young girls today.

I thought the film captured the power and essence of the original Brothers Grimm tale quite well, while adding elements from other fairy tales into the mix. This movie may be too scary for young children but adults will definitely enjoy this diabolical and sinister take on an old favorite fairy tale. For those who grew up with the Disney cartoon and have never read the original tales, I highly recommend reading them. They're much gloomier and creepier but also more interesting.



Reno Lovison said...

Stopped by from LinkedIn. Nice blog! I wish I had seen this instead of the on with Julia Roberts which came out about the same time.

JP said...

Yes, I read that Mirror Mirror is a more comic modern take on the story.

Jon Jefferson said...

I have yet to see this one. Although I am not a fan of Kristen Stewart it should still be interesting.

As a side note, my wife and I were talking earlier today about how perceptions seem to fall to the disney versions of classic stories with younger people. When that is what they grew up with, the traditional stories seem to be less real to them (sad really). It is good to find that some of the new takes on older stories follow a more traditional arc.

Lisa Cash Hanson said...

My husband thought I got a girl movie LOL afterwards he said "Babe you can pick out all the movies" :) We loved it

Stan said...

This is a very good review. I don't know if you get the TV series "Grimm" in Canada. This series also retells the tales in a modern setting.
The take is a modern police detective who is a descendant of the family, and must battle the demons encountered in this day. He is helped by a descendant of the Big Bad wolf who is reformed.

JP said...

I haven' heard of this TV series but it sounds interesting. I will watch for it.

A.K.Andrew said...

Grimm's fairy tales, are often just that - grim. As you say this film follows in the original's footsteps but ups the ante. Good review that makes me want to see a film a might not otherwise have wanted to. Maybe I just need to read a good fairy tale:-) Thanks John

Kelly Wade said...

Nice review. I watched this movie a few weeks ago and really liked it. I agree that Charlize Theron stole the show with her portrayal of the wicked queen, she was awesome and dark!I loved the scenery in this film as well and thought it really added to the storyline.

Susan Cooper said...

I have not seen this movie yet but your review makes me want to but it on my list.