Fairy tales: the most German of all tales. Designed to scare children into compliance, with stories of dangerous forests, sexualised animals and infallibly benevolent monarchs. Beauty is truth, truth beauty, while physical imperfections are the embodiment of mental malignancy. They tend to end up acting as formative influences over our eventual adult outlooks to a greater degree than we might imagine. They create memories as enduring as wetting your pants at a sports day, or inexpertly tonguing a soused preteen behind an Asda.
Unfortunately Snow White and the Huntsman labours under the pretence that it is an imaginative retelling of a classic fairy tale, when in reality it is a functional, overlong retreading of comprehensively pulverised ground. Thankfully this means that a lengthy plot examination is unnecessary, since you pretty much know what happens. It’s happily ever after, but not before a few horses have been sent toppling into peat bogs or been covered in boiling oil. It is not bad by all counts, but neither is it something that really bothers to stretch itself, which makes it feel like a missed opportunity.
Snow White (Kristen Stewart) is locked in a tower as a child by a usurping witch-queen who kills her father and assumes the throne. Although given that everyone keeps going on about how beautiful she is, you would imagine that sticking her in isolation would do a good job of cooling her ego prior to adulthood.
She escapes as a teen and manages to make it to a wood, where a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) who is sent to kill her actually takes pity and decides to help her get back to the last bastion of resistance in the kingdom and raise an army (of about 30 blokes) to take on the evil incumbent.
What Kristen Stewart really needs is a director, or indeed any person on set with a loud voice, to shout ‘Leave your fucking hair alone!’ at least once every take. Because without this advice she behaves in a manner that makes her Snow White virtually indistinguishable from Bella Swan. Not a problem for her fans, but certainly an issue when she could have made this new heroine kick a little bit more ass rather than just being a docile plaything for the men to squabble and fawn over.
The arrival of the dwarves is welcome, although it comes far too late in a drawn out film and they end up being criminally underused, despite the fact that the British actors who play them will be well known to an adult audience.
So Snow White and the Huntsman is disappointing but not disastrous. It hits all the right notes in terms of following the source material and also has enough shouting to convince you that some acting is going on, even if it’s under a thick veil of melodrama, dodgy accents and a slapdash script. And for many people, a ‘sort of fine’ movie will become an engaging, enjoyable experience.