Snow White and the Huntsman Rupert Sanders

Snow White and the Huntsman Rupert Sanders
Damn you, misleading trailers! In the studio race to get a Snow White story into theatres, it turns out there are no winners, least of all the viewing public.

Based upon the arresting images cut into the visually enticing previews for Snow White and the Huntsman, it seemed the action-oriented take on the tale was a sure bet to triumph over the abysmal Mirror Mirror. But while this a far less annoying piece of fluff, it smacks of something equally poisonous: authorial uncertainty. However, being a first-time director is no excuse for Rupert Sanders's thoughtless, uneven vision.

In this version of the classic Grimm fairy tale, Snow White is more a prisoner of war than a stepdaughter oppressed because of the evil Queen's jealousy over her beauty. Named Ravenna in this iteration (because she can turn into a flock of the carrion eaters, get it?), Charlize Theron plays the Queen with such scenery molesting gusto that Cruella de Vil would advise her to take it down a notch.

Right after bedding Snow's father, Ravenna murders the king and takes the castle, imprisoning the young heir. Rather than have her taken out to the woods by the huntsman and have heart cut out because she wants the girl dead for superseding her beauty, the Queen needs Snow's heart for a blood magic ritual required to make her immortal. Perpetually scowly-faced Snow manages a daring prison break, which conveniently leads directly to a friendly white horse sitting just outside the gates, waiting for her to ride, which she does, right to its death via mud pit in the "Dark Forest."

After some random hallucinations (is there a thematic reason Snow's fear manifests as a bat demon thing?) due to mind-altering spores that also give the FX team an excuse to animate some writhing branch snakes and other such typical, gothic woodland terrors, we're finally introduced to the huntsman.

Chris Hemsworth's performance sticks out like the implied beast erection a giant bridge troll later sprouts over Snow. Nobody else in the film displays even a fraction of the nuanced emotional turmoil Hemsworth (The Avengers, The Cabin In the Woods) commits to with his body language and dexterous facial expressions. It's a shame he's cast opposite the complete void of charisma and talent that is Kristen Stewart.

And who would ever buy Stewart's bland, plain-Jane looks as a legitimate threat to Theron's distinct beauty? That's only the tip of a credibility iceberg that helps sink this vacuous exercise in meaningless imagery. Don't even get me started on Stewart's noncommittal English accent; she makes Kevin Costner sound like a regional dialect prodigy.

Not even the action scenes are well shot, relying on lazy, shaky camera work and fast, close cuts that give no sense of coherence or spatiality to the frequent skirmishes that make up the bulk of the film as the titular characters are pursued by the Queen's incestuous brother and his minions.

Oh, yeah, seven dwarfs eventually show up, all played by very capable actors, but their presence matters not a lick to the story, like most of this over-long, underwritten and inconsistently directed mess.

If you've seen the trailer for Snow White and the Huntsman, you've seen enough. (Universal)