A darker shade of Snow White
Big film of the week
Snow white and the huntsman (12A, general release, 127 minutes)
Director: Rupert Sanders Stars: Charlize Theron, Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Bob Hoskins, Lily Cole
By my count at least a dozen films have been inspired by the Grimm brothers' most famous fairytale, and this year alone we've already had one Snow White movie, the disappointing and gutless Mirror, Mirror.
Well there's nothing gutless about Snow White and the Huntsman, a special-effects-laden take on the old story that positively oozes bile.
Charlize Theron takes the key role of Queen Ravenna, a beautiful sorceress who has usurped and ruined a once happy and prosperous kingdom.
When Princess Snow White (Kristen Stewart) was a little girl, her kindly mother fell ill and died, and her father, King Magnus, was beguiled by Ravenna, who wormed her way into his affections by pretending to be a war hostage, then killed him on their wedding night and seized power.
Nice, and poor, Snow White is thrown into a dungeon where she grows up in total ignorance of the wider world.
Ravenna is almost as obsessed with looking young and pretty as your average Californian, and keeps her complexion in tip-top condition by sucking the vim from the kingdom's female population.
By the time Snow White reaches womanhood, Ravenna has almost run out of victims, and her precious mirror tells her that she'll stay young forever if she eats Snow White's heart.
Ravenna's just getting out the knife and fork when Snow White escapes from her cell and manages to flee the castle, losing her pursuers in the Dark Forest. Things look bleak till a handsome but dissolute huntsman called Eric (Chris Hemsworth) finds her and reluctantly agrees to help.
She asks him to take her to the castle of Duke Hammond (Vincent Regan), a nobleman who's resisted Ravenna's reign. But after the pair are ambushed by a gang of kvetching dwarves, an unlikely alliance is formed that will threaten Ravenna's grip on power.
Though it loses its way a little in the middle, Rupert Sanders' film has a nicely nightmarish atmosphere that's in keeping with the gruesome Grimm traditions.
The special effects surrounding Ravenna's displays of power are spectacular: she appears here and there at will, and vanishes in a scattering of cawing CGI crows.
The film's design is nicely gothic overall, and Theron certainly looks the part as the endlessly vain queen.
She's not given that much to hang on to in terms of character, however, and seems a little stiff here, perhaps as a consequence of having to affect an RP English accent.
Poor Hemsworth is asked to approximate something Scottish, and falls well short with a halting and distracting burr. But Stewart handles her English lilt surprisingly well.
I would imagine that Midgets Equity were not especially happy with the casters of this film, because instead of being played by actual small people, the seven dwarves are interpreted by the classy likes of Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan and Ray Winstone, with Johnny Harris and Brian Gleeson bringing up the rear.
I'm not sure how they were rendered little on the screen, but it's done seamlessly, and Ray Winstone is the standout dwarf, mainly because he's given a string of scatological jokes to play with.
Overall, though, a sense of humour is the one area in which this film is sadly wanting.
It's all a bit portentous and Wagneresque and even vaguely messianic for a simple fairytale, but it does look great.
And though Stewart has her limitations as an actress, she's quite good here in what is essentially a symbolic role, and looks softer and prettier than usual.
Day & Night