Snow White and the Huntsman

In the 2010s, it was all the rage to craft a newer, darker, edgier take on renowned fairy tales of old – ignoring the simple fact that The Brothers Grimm’s version of these stories was plenty dark as is. Still, a gap needed to be bridged with fads changing from Twilight and the host of YA paranormal romance into The Hunger Games and YA dystopia. After all, The Avengers had only just been released. How did we know it would shape the new ‘10s well into the new ‘20s? Controversy aside, Snow White and the Huntsman was a refreshing breath of fresh air into the classic fairy tale – paving the way for a slew of new interpretations of tales as old as time. Generally, in any story revolving around Snow White, the Huntsman is a minor character at best. The character’s sole purpose is to take Snow White out, which he fails to do because of her general sweetness, beauty, or both. In this adaptation, the Huntsman is given more depth – and while the sequel would put a twist on it, his backstory is critical to the story.

Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth play the title roles, the former fresh off filming her final Twilight film and the latter about to blow up in a series of breakout roles. The connection between the two characters is the focus of this film, as the title outright states. Ignoring the controversy surrounding the film, of which there was more than one, Kristen Stewart gave a phenomenal performance here, and Chris Hemsworth was put into the position of proving that he was more than just Thor. I picked this film out as a “must-see” in 2012, primarily because I love fairy tales, and Kristen Stewart has always been one of my favorite actresses. Chris Hemsworth’s Thor was the first MCU film I saw in theaters, and The Cabin in the Woods, was still on my mind when I recognized he was in this film, too. So when I settled in to watch it, I was pumped, and it never once disappointed me. For this franchise, my only major disappointment was that Kristen Stewart wasn’t in the sequel – but that’s a review for another time.

Snow White is a well-known story featuring 12 characters: Snow White, the Evil Queen, the Prince, the Huntsman, the Magic Mirror, and the Seven Dwarves. Several differences apply to these characters, such as the Prince (William, played by Sam Claflin) being the son of a Duke or the Magic Mirror being granted a somewhat physical form as a golden creature. Still, the character archetypes are nonetheless recognizable. The adaptation also seeks a more pressing reason why Ravenna (the Evil Queen, played by Charlize Theron) has to kill Snow White – her power, beauty, and immortality are waning away because of Snow White’s burgeoning beauty. I must give props to the Magic Mirror (voiced by Chris Obi) for not giving Ravenna critical information until it was too late for her to do anything about it. Their participation was always a given as the central characters of the famed story. This is why several other characters are introduced to fill out the world and explain the two-hour runtime.

The Seven Dwarves are introduced with an eighth member. Beith (Ian McShane), Muir (Bob Hoskins), Gort (Ray Winstone), Nion (Nick Frost), Coll (Toby Jones), Duir (Eddie Marsan), and Quert (Johnny Harris) play the seven integral dwarves, with Gus (played by Brian Gleeson) along for the ride until he makes a life-or-death decision to save Snow White. It isn’t so much a spoiler as an obvious plot point – Snow White is famous for having seven dwarf companions, and one of them had to go at some point. While the relationship between the group is rarely explained, here we are given information on how they are tied together – with some being related (like the brothers Duir and Coll or the father and son duo Muir and Quert).

Unfortunately, when they first cross paths with Snow White, it’s almost exactly at the halfway mark – giving them much less time to endear themselves to us as an audience, though they don’t let that stop them from trying. Like most of the kingdom’s people, the dwarves have suffered immensely under the rule of Queen Ravenna, and they are less than inclined to trust the Huntsman. However, upon learning Snow White’s identity, they can finally sense hope – even if it is quashed a moment later by the Queen’s men arriving mere seconds later.

William is introduced alongside a young Snow White, establishing their childhood friendship. As this is ostensibly in a medieval setting, with magic and whatnot, there are still certain expectations from royalty and nobility. King Magnus and Queen Eleanor (played by Noah Huntley and Liberty Ross) are blessed with a girl, and the Queen outright states that Snow White will be Queen one day. William’s presence, though, makes it clear that a powerful nobleman will be at her side. William and his father, Duke Regan (Vincent Regan), are two of the few who were lucky enough to escape Ravenna’s initial onslaught against the kingdom after she assassinated King Magnus, but they were unable to save Snow White. This failure has haunted William for years, and he makes it his mission in adulthood to rescue her by any means necessary. He makes his way into the Queen’s hunting party, which is led by her brother, no less, Finn (played by Sam Spruell), all so that he can have a chance at saving Snow White.

Ravenna is one of the most complex versions of the Evil Queen that we have ever seen – with perhaps Regina from Once Upon a Time beating her out due to simply existing for a longer period of time. While the Evil Queen is undoubtedly cold, calculating, and vain, there are extenuating circumstances at play here. Ravenna was all but essentially cursed by her mother as a child, with power and beauty coming at the cost of her own humanity. Her intentions were clear; she wanted Ravenna to take revenge on the king who destroyed their home and their peace, something Ravenna applied to every king who crossed her path – whether they deserved it or not. With this, she would become far worse than those who had wronged her in the past, proving that revenge is a cycle that is hard to break once it starts rolling.

Each character is more than their archetype, which I always hope to see when I watch an adaptation of a well-known story. They feel richer and more interesting than their initial incarnations because those versions are ingrained in our memory. Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves is iconic to the point where people who have never seen it can reference things from it. Snow White and the Huntsman did its due diligence in crafting a new version of the story in the same year that a lighter, somewhat softer version of the fairy tale was released as well in the form of Mirror, Mirror (which starred Lily Collins, Armie Hammer, and Julia Roberts). While the traditional beats of Snow White are hit, almost as if they were goalposts, they are not handled in the same way we have become accustomed to seeing them. The dwarves are outright hostile towards Snow White when they first meet her and the Huntsman, with more than one eager to kill the pair and move on. The Evil Queen is shown to be capable of love, or something like it, in her interactions with her brother Finn, and her cruelty is rather more vicious in this incarnation.

From the outset, it is clear that this is a Snow White story, even as it twists the familiar on its head. That gave this version more room to expand on the familiar simultaneously. One major criticism that Snow White particularly has is the lack of a relationship between the titular Princess and her potential love interest. Here, the film doesn’t shy away from the burgeoning relationship between Snow White and the Huntsman, and it works to acknowledge the pro forma relationship between Snow White and William. William and the Huntsman are not pitted against one another for Snow White’s affections, and the possibility of “true love’s kiss” is never even mentioned. True, a kiss awakens Snow White from her sleeping death, but there is no relationship between Snow White and William or the Huntsman. Just before the Huntsman gives the requisite kiss, he is talking about, and no doubt thinking about, his wife. Much like Maleficent, a few years later, the definition of love is put to the test. Some can easily believe that the Huntsman and Snow White found love in one another throughout the film, even if neither says it aloud.

On the other hand, it could also be implied that the Huntsman’s love for his wife allowed him to transpose that love into true love and use its magic to awaken Snow White. Seeing as how the sequel we got was not the sequel that was intended, we’ll never really get an answer to this question. At least not one that would satisfy anybody, in particular, other than me.

I was absolutely happy just watching Snow White become a force to be reckoned with.

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