By Robert Horton Herald movie critic
All right, so this version of the tale is called “Snow White and the Huntsman.” The ax-wielding character gets more prominence, but don’t fret: The wicked queen and the seven dwarfs are still much in evidence.
As the second “Snow White” movie of the year (oh, so you already forgot about “Mirror Mirror” too?), this one needs to distinguish itself in more ways than the title. Its approach is gloomier, creepier, with a higher grunge factor than Disney versions.
Our heroine is played by Kristen Stewart, leading lady of the “Twilight” conglomerate. Her innocent Snow is imprisoned by Queen Charlize Theron, who gazes into a huge gold mirror while asking the proverbial question, “Who’s the fairest of them all?”
You remember the answer to that one. In this variation, Snow ends up outside the castle with the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, also known as Marvel’s Thor), eventually crossing paths with a number of dwarfs and drafting plans to usurp her royal badness.
About those dwarfs: In the movie’s most striking digital effect, they are played by actors who are not little people; the special effects render them as dwarfs. So you see some well-known British thespians — Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost — as you’ve never seen them before.
An interesting touch, even with the nagging thought that somewhere some dwarf actors are being put out of jobs (which wasn’t true in the case of “Mirror Mirror”). Actually, this interlude in the middle of the movie is the most interesting section of “Snow White and the Huntsman,” which begins in tedium but comes alive in this pastoral section.
Director Rupert Sanders, whose TV commercials have caused actual buzz, seems content to craft pretty visual displays and allow considerable over-acting. The film’s clever designs include the distinctive look of the dwarfs and the parade of costumes for Theron’s malevolent character, who indulges in none of the campy bad-girl fun of past Wicked Queens. She’s all evil, all the time.
I thought Kristen Stewart was appropriately intense as Snow White, and she doesn’t embarrass herself in scenes requiring sword-flinging or gown-wearing.
Theron looks like she could take her in a knockdown dragout fight, but that’s what special effects are for.
Speaking of which, “Snow White and the Huntsman” creates plenty of adorable fairies and magical castles. Since the film is a little too intense for younger viewers, this creates an odd disconnect at times.
It’s the kind of digital extravaganza that has an army of warriors dissolving into shards of metal, and a giant white stag dematerializing into thousands of butterflies, all of which makes this already insubstantial movie seem that much flimsier.
“Snow White and the Huntsman” (2½ stars)
Although things pick up when the dwarfs enter the movie, this dark-hued version of the fairy tale tries to be intense (probably too intense for younger viewers) but ends up being insubstantial. Charlize Theron plays it straight as the Wicked Queen, and Kristen Stewart is appropriately intense as Snow White.
Rated: PG-13 for violence.
Showing: Alderwood, Everett Stadium, Galaxy Monroe, Marysville, Stanwood, Meridian, Woodinville, Cascade Mall, Oak Harbor.