Originality is a scant resource in Hollywood, which probably accounts for two re-workings of Snow White in almost as many months.
While Mirror, Mirror starring Julia Roberts and Nathan Lane put a broad comedic spin on the Brothers Grimm fairytale, Rupert Sanders’s sweeping fantasy is a much darker affair.
The opening half hour barely features the eponymous heroine, who we are told by the voiceover narration “was adored throughout the kingdom as much for her defiant spirit as her beauty”.
Instead, the script initially focuses on the slinky villainess played with an icy glare by Charlize Theron, whose quest to be the fairest of them all wrenches apart a previously peaceful kingdom and stains the land with innocent blood.
Fittingly, Dominic Watkins’s production design and Colleen Atwood’s costumes are ravishing, augmented by slick digital effects that transform the evil queen into a flock of ravens or visualise the voice of the mirror as a shape-shifting mass of molten metal.
Humour is fleeting so it’s left to the gung-ho dwarves to inject welcome comic relief at the film’s midway point, using their diminutive stature to their advantage in the well-orchestrated battle sequences.
Theron slinks with intent as scheming sorceress Ravenna, who seizes the throne by killing her husband King Magnus (Noah Huntley) shortly after their wedding.
“You’ll be the death of me,” jests the king as he kisses his scheming bride on the marital bed, unaware that he unwittingly speaks the truth.
Once Ravenna ascends to the throne, she allows her private army to storm the castle and enslave the people.
The queen incarcerates Snow White (Kristen Stewart) in the north tower and plans to attain eternal youth by ripping out her stepdaughter’s beating heart.
Thankfully, the plucky heroine escapes the dungeon and the clutches of Ravenna’s slimy brother Finn (Sam Spruell), and heads into the aptly named Dark Forest.
Ravenna’s magic holds no sway in this enclave so she hires a Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track down Snow White and deliver the girl to her doom.
However, he too falls under the escapee’s spell and agrees to help Snow White overthrow Ravenna with the assistance of childhood friend William (Sam Claflin) and eight pint-sized former miners - Beith (Ian McShane), Muir (Bob Hoskins), Gort (Ray Winstone), Nion (Nick Frost), Duir (Eddie Marsan), Coll (Toby Jones), Quert (Johnny Harris) and Gus (Brian Gleeson).
Snow White & The Huntsman is a well-crafted yarn that overstays its welcome.
The flimsy plot strains to fill 127 minutes of screen time so there are noticeable longueurs, which Sanders fills with slow-motion battle sequences and a chaste romance twixt Stewart and strapping Hemsworth.
The scriptwriters nod to the Brothers Grimm throughout, galloping towards the anticipated happy ever after without completely undermining the central message of female empowerment in a world dominated by hairy men.
By Damon Smith
:: NO SWEARING :: NO SEX :: VIOLENCE :: RATING: 6/10
Released: May 30 (UK & Ireland), 127 mins