A few months ago, if you asked me whether I thought another Snow White reboot was necessary, I probably would have said no. Another damsel-in-distress plot did not seem appealing. Then I started seeing more and more promos for Rupert Sanders‘ Snow White and The Hunstman that suggested this damsel tale had a little more to offer.
Don’t get me wrong. Before Snow White (Kristen Stewart) indulges her inner badass, she goes through a lot of distressing stuff. Her mother dies when she is a child, and her father gets killed by the woman who takes her mother’s place. That woman becomes The Evil Queen, Ravenna (Charlize Theron). She locks Snow White in a tower and spends most of her day checking in with her beloved mirror. You know how that goes. The mirror (which in this case is more of a giant golden plate that occasionally manifests as a gilded, draped figure) tells Ravenna that Snow White’s fairness and beauty will surpass the Queen’s. Ravenna doesn’t take the news very well, to put it lightly. Snow White escapes and Ravenna orders a drunken huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to find her.
The rest of the movie consists of Ravenna losing her mind and Snow White kicking ass with the Hunstman (who, unsurprisingly, shirks his duty to the Queen). The rogues go on a cyclical journey, encountering the Dark Forest, a giant troll, dwarves, and mystical fairy lands on their way back to confronting the Queen. An obligatory love subplot develops, as does the whole poisoned apple scenario. Truth be told, it’s a pretty convoluted yet predictable trip. Yet, while their journey is underwhelming at times, it mostly pays off. After waking from her poison-induced coma, Snow White is imbued with a renewed sense of vengeance. She rallies the troops, dons the chain mail, and storms the castle in her father’s name. Her final showdown with the Queen, while brief, is satisfyingly grotesque.
Much of these story elements could have been gleaned from the original tale and the trailers preceding the film’s release. I certainly knew about the castle siege; methinks the filmmakers were aware that an armored, warrior version of KStew would be an effective draw. I also anticipated that Ravenna would be a scene stealer. (Have you seen her wardrobe? It’s yet another example of jaw-dropping fierceness courtesy of Collen Atwood.) However, I did not expect that the Queen would be a story stealer as well. Her character development is the best in the film, far surpassing that of the titular characters. Her backstory is tragic, her road to royalty is complex, and her reign is riddled with ongoing bouts of mental instability. Theron’s performance is spellbinding from beginning to end. In the words of Ravenna, she gives the movie “the Queen it deserves.”