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SWATH: 'Snow White and the Huntsman' & Kristen Stewart Get Mixed Reviews

Rupert Sanders Snow White and the HuntsmanRupert Sanders director Snow White and the Huntsman reviews.

Snow White and the Huntsman reviews have been mixed in the British and American media. (Please see link below.) Most critics have enthusiastically praised the film's visuals and fairy-tale atmosphere, while complaining about its length and lack of dramatic cohesiveness. Directed by feature-film newcomer Rupert Sanders, previously a director of commercials, and starring Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, and Sam Claflin, Snow White and the Huntsman opened today in the UK and Ireland.

Reviews for the film's stellar cast have also been wildly mixed. If noticed at all, Thor / The Avengers' Chris Hemsworth has mostly gotten his Scottish accent dismissed as artificial. Some critics found Oscar winner Charlize Theron's presence a welcome relief to Snow White and the Huntsman's gloomy tones; others, however, found Theron either too campy or not campy enough. (Theron, by the way, has another movie that has just opened in the UK: Ridley Scott's Prometheus.)

As for Kristen Stewart, comparisons to The Twilight Saga's Bella Swan were all but inevitable. Some thought Stewart was playing Bella dressed up as Joan of Arc; others thought she had finally been able to step out of her iconic role. Others yet felt that Stewart began the film as Bella, but later on grew into Snow White and the Huntsman's Joan of Arc'ed Snow White.

Several also remarked on SWATH's Twilight-like romantic triangle: Kristen Stewart / Bella / Snow White + refined and handsome suitor (Robert Pattinson's vampire; Sam Claflin's Prince Charming) + hunky and earthy suitor (Taylor Lautner's werewolf; Chris Hemsworth's Huntsman). Something else not left unnoticed: the fact that one of the producers of Tim Burton's visually grandiose Alice in Wonderland, Joe Roth, was also one of the producers of Snow White and the Huntsman.

If you choose to read only one Snow White and the Huntsman review, I'd suggest Andrew O'Hehir's at Salon.com. Although O'Hehir liked the movie overall, he had strong reservations. Whether or not you agree with him, his likes and dislikes are carefully and clearly sketched out in his review.

Snow White and the Huntsman's Rotten Tomatoes rating currently is 60 percent positive; 80 percent among that site's top critics (out of only 10 reviews), and a 6.7 average. Now, remember, these percentages will be changing quite frequently in the next few days; a mere 15 minutes ago, Snow White and the Huntsman had a “rotten” rating: 59 percent. Now at 60 percent, it has a “fresh” tomato next to it.

Written by Evan Daugherty (Killing Season), John Lee Hancock (The Blind Side), and Hossein Amini (Drive), Snow White and the Huntsman release date in the United States is next Friday, June 1. That same day SWATH opens in Canada, Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Spain, Indonesia, Switzerland, and about two dozen other countries.

Also in the SWATH cast are Mrs. Henderson Presents' Bob Hoskins, The Departed's Ray Winstone, Shrek the Third's Ian McShane, The Hunger Games' Toby Jones, and Vera Drake's Eddie Marsan.

In addition to: The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus' Lily Cole, Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance's Vincent Regan, 28 Days Later's Noah Huntley, Shaun of the Dead's Nick Frost, and Salmon Fishing in Yemen's Rachael Stirling.

Snow White and the Huntsman Liberty Ross Snow White's Mother
Snow White and the Huntsman, Snow White's Mother (Liberty Ross)

The first feature film by former commercials director Rupert Sanders, Snow White and the Huntsman stars Twilight's Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Prometheus' Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen Ravenna, The Avengers' Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' Sam Claflin as Prince William.

So far, the Snow White and the Huntsman reviews have been decidedly mixed. Those who enjoyed it have strong reservations; those who didn't, offer praise for one or more cast members, and particularly for the film's visual appeal. Check out several review snippets below.

“English commercial director Rupert Sanders makes his feature debut with a splash, launching a fantasy-adventure franchise that probably isn't as good as any of the things it references — the classic Walt Disney film, of course, but also The Lord of the Rings, the Narnia series, Game of Thrones, Star Wars, Shakespeare and countless other works besides — but comes close enough, I'd guess, to carve out its own niche and create its own fan base.” Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com.

“… debut feature director Rupert Sanders comes up with some suitably stylish moments and is blessed with a deliciously evil performance by Charlize Theron as the cruel queen, his film can never quite find the balance between fairy tale and Joan of Arc-style fable and gets bogged down in questing when it should be delivering magic and adventure.” Mark Adams, Screen Daily.

“[Rupert Sanders] has talent, conviction, and a knack for the arresting image; what he doesn't have yet is any sense of how to craft a seamless two-hour narrative. Snow White and the Huntsman plays like a dozen pretty good short films and a couple of clinkers hitched together like boxcars. When it aims for dramatic ambiguity, it just seems confused. Is the movie entertaining? In its schizophrenic fashion, yes.” Ty Burr, The Boston Globe.

“It's too long, and the many new characters and settings make Snow White and the Huntsman lose track of its main thread for stretches. On the whole, it's a more engrossing, more lively re-imagining of the classic tale than Mirror Mirror. But it's not going to make anybody forget the Disney version. Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

“Astonishingly beautiful and breathtaking in its brutal imagery, Snow White & the Huntsman is thrilling and frightening in equal measure, yet as bereft of satisfying substance as a poisoned apple.” Christy Lemire, AP.

“But is it destiny that truly empowers the girl [Snow White] or narrative convenience and expediency? Though the film intriguingly thumbs its nose at the Prince Charming fantasy, hinting that the huntsman, not the royal William (Sam Claflin), is her true beloved, the story remains curiously reticent about romance and what Snow White wants both as a woman and a warrior. And that it's ultimately revealed that Ravenna need not die by Snow White's hand makes Stewart's limp Joan of Arc routine all the more beside the point.” Ed Gonzalez, Slate.

“Had it trusted to the native charm of its cast and the sensory seduction of its often-astonishing images to humbly, naively retell its story, this Snow White might have been something special. Instead, it's defined by an overall bagginess that betrays a lack of any abiding authorial pattern. Commercials director Rupert Sanders is credited with his first feature here, but producer Joe Roth's is the name above the title, and the rampant, pricey production design is given such star treatment that it's almost awkward when the actors butt in.” Nick Pinkerton, L.A. Weekly.

Sam Claflin Prince Charming Snow White and the Huntsman 2012
Sam Claflin / Prince Charming, Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Directed by Rupert Sanders, Snow White and the Huntsman stars On the Road / Breaking Dawn - Part 2's Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Prometheus / Young Adult's Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen Ravenna, The Cabin in the Woods / The Avengers' Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' Sam Claflin as Prince Charming (William). To date, Snow White and the Huntsman reviews have been mixed – without extremes of “love” and “hate.” Those who enjoyed it have strong reservations; those who didn't enjoy it, have given good notices to one or more cast members. Additionally, the film's look has been generally singled out for extravagant praise. See below.

“Haunted woods, Theron bathing in a vat of creamy milk, then smashing apart into dozens of flapping ravens… The images are stark and effective, and SWATH heaves with tangibly craggy landscapes that are part Dagobah, part Winterfell, entirely believable. Sadly, the story never matches the exhilarating optics. While Theron's mental, soul-sucking queen offers theatrical menace, and the numerous action clashes easily get pulses pumping, the plot's limited to a series of encounters between Snow and often unremarkable B characters.” Josh Winning, Total Film.

Snow White & the Huntsman turns out to be one of the best of the bunch. That's due largely to the obvious toil and trouble taken to build such a darkly imagined fantasy world … The amazing visuals and set pieces are evocative and stunning, from the misty-shrouded Dark Forest and its gnarled limbs to the stark bird-infested chambers of the castle that's home to the tyrannical queen.” Randy Myers, San Jose Mercury News.

“A too-bustling prologue shows how Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron, camping it up) usurped power, poisoned the land and imprisoned her stepdaughter rival, Snow White (Kristen Stewart, a delight). But then the film finds surer footing and proceeds with a deliberateness rare in a big-budget franchise starter; you can sense the hand of coscreenwriter Hossein Amini (Drive) in the story's always involving, slow-build structure.” Keith Uhlich, Time Out New York.

“This, his first feature film (graduating from commercials) is chockfull of gorgeous, ethereal imagery and spellbinding effects - including the eerie sight of Theron withering with age and reverting to youth in a matter of seconds. Every shot is beautifully composed and Sanders is able to create an atmosphere that draws you into a scene. It's just that, once inside, there are no great reveals.
It may have been asking too much of the director to extrapolate a mythology of true depth and meaning from a simple children's fairytale. Only Theron comes close with her tragic portrayal of the Queen.” Stella Papamichael, Digital Spy.

Snow White and the Huntsman is a tastefully overbearing franchise fairy tale with a handful of ravishing touches. It's also a world-class illustration of how, in the age of the global blockbuster, the lust for demographics — for coralling the largest possible audience — can determine aesthetics. The movie works so hard to transform a quintessential girl story into a girl-and-guy story that it's like three movies in one.” Owen Gleiberman, EW.com.

“The overwhelming result is an exquisite-looking, but somehow empty fantasy adventure. Huntsman isn't quite mad enough to be The Neverending Story, and it's far too earnest to be Labyrinth, but sits somewhere on a par with the Narnia adaptations. While we're talking comparisons, Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings trilogy is the most obvious reference, from Huntsman's battle scenes to its sweeping mountainside helicopter shots. Unlike that trilogy, though, Sanders is working from source material that could be told in full during one bedtime story; thin soup compared to the rich stew Jackson had to work with.” Louisa Mellor, Den of Geek.

Sam Claflin as Prince Charming / Snow White and the Huntsman picture: Alex Bailey / Universal Pictures.

Liberty Ross / Snow White and the Huntsman picture: Alex Bailey / Universal Pictures.

Snow White and the Huntsman Rupert Sanders director picture: Alex Bailey / Universal Pictures.

Kristen Stewart Snow White and the Huntsman
Kristen Stewart / Snow White, Snow White and the Huntsman

Snow White and the Huntsman is former commercials director Rupert Sanders' first feature film. The medieval epic dark drama / romance / adventure along the lines of Game of Thrones and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring stars The Twilight Saga: Eclipse / The Runaways' Kristen Stewart as Snow White, Prometheus / Monster's Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen Ravenna, Red Dawn / The Avengers' Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman, and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides / the announced The Quiet Ones' Sam Claflin as Prince William (the fairy-tale's Charming one).

Considering the Snow White plotline – fairest vs. fairestest – it was inevitable that film reviewers would compare – or at least mention side by side – the effectiveness of both Oscar winner Charlize Theron, 37 next August, and Kristen Stewart, 22, best known as Bella Swan of the Twilight movie series. Both performers got mixed reviews. See below.

“And yet the performances—notably from Kristen Stewart as the iconic title character—don't always live up to the film's visionary promise. First, there's the problem of casting anyone who's supposed to be fairer than Charlize Theron as the evil queen. But beyond Stewart's distractingly inconsistent British accent, she simply lacks the presence to serve as a convincing warrior princess. She's too slight, her Snow White seems too reticent and insecure as she leads her minions into battle, and she still relies on all those Bella Swan tics that define her performances in the Twilight movies: the sulking and sighing, the skittish side glances.” Christy Lemire, AP.

“Theron, at the opposite end of the spectrum, tends to get too screechy; with her imposing height, deep voice and mesmerizing beauty, she's far more powerful when she dials it down. She's long been willing to play deeply flawed even cruel characters, but here she gets downright campy at times. Still, she is always a startling vision to behold in Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood's dramatic, intricate dresses and crowns.” Christy Lemire, AP.

“While Kristen Stewart is pretty good as the pretty, good titular lead, it's Charlize Theron's crazed performance as wicked Queen Ravenna that leaves the biggest impression. Demonic, furious, and psychologically fractured, Theron is utterly committed to her role as Ravenna, playing the sorceress as the ultimate psycho beauty queen. Theron has long done a good line in dark and crazy, and this, combined with her extreme beauty, make her a perfect fit for the part.” Louisa Mellor, Den of Geek.

“In the battle of the dueling queens, Oscar winner Theron comes up short against the regally evil Julia Roberts of Mirror Mirror. Theron, at a loss in playing this embittered and cunning character's power, tosses epic tantrums and turns into a shrieking harpy at every turn. She seems off for much of the film.” Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

“The lovely Stewart makes an unlikely action heroine, better in the romantic clinches than in a fight. A good actress on most days, she tames some of her “Twilight” trademarks (playing with her hair, panting to show passion), just not that much. But does anybody else think that a mirror that proclaims her “fairest” over Charlize Theron needs glasses?” Roger Moore, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

“Snow does earn top billing, but don't be fooled: This film belongs to the Oscar-winning Theron, who sinks her talons into the killer part, making every snarl and outburst such wicked, cruel fun to behold. Stewart is fine as Snow, but her sullen demeanor doesn't exactly inspire the sense of hope the role demands, even if it's refreshing to see this good actress not playing a drip like Bella.” Randy Myers, San Jose Mercury News.

Kristen Stewart as Snow White / Snow White and the Huntsman picture: Alex Bailey / Universal Pictures.

Charlize Theron Evil Queen Ravenna Snow White and the Huntsman
Charlize Theron / Evil Queen Ravenna, Snow White and the Huntsman

Below are some more Charlize Theron and Kristen Stewart reviews for Snow White and the Huntsman, which pits Twilight / New Moon / Eclipse's Stewart (Snow White) against Prometheus / Monster / Young Adult's Theron (the Evil Queen Ravenna). Directed by feature-film first timer Rupert Sanders, the fantasy adventure also stars Red Dawn / The Avengers' Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' Sam Claflin as Prince Charming.

“Most shockingly, Kristen Stewart comes out of it unscathed. Mousy-pretty rather than fairy-tale beautiful, an actress of limited range (but capable of strong work within that range), Stewart spends the first half of the film hardly speaking a word, as if the producers were afraid to let her talk. When she does open her mouth, it's with a potted kinda-British accent that sounds as if she prepared by watching BBC America for a month. Yet Stewart's performance grows in stature as her character gains confidence, and by the time she gets to her big scene — it's the locker-room speech, where she whips the populace into rebelling against the evil queen — the actress is at one with the movie's eerily possessed intensity.” Ty Burr, The Boston Globe.

“[The Evil Queen Ravenna] is a fascist of feminism, and Theron's acting has the blood of operatic anger coursing through it. She updates the mythic ripeness of the material. That's true, in a far more tremulous way, of Kristen Stewart as well, who is just wary and delicate enough of a presence to play 'purity' without becoming a pain. … [The love triangle] is, I guess, supposed to remind us of the Twilight series … but in this case the choice comes to very little. And that's a real miscalculation, since Stewart is so much more convincing as a victim-hearththrob than she is when she's required to put on armor and lead a revolution. By the end, she's supposed to be playing Snow White as Joan of Arc meets Braveheart meets Katniss Everdeen, and she's less than authentic on all fronts.” Owen Gleiberman, EW.com.

“I'm a fan of Stewart's, generally speaking, and will irritatingly add that I always think of her, first and foremost, as 'that girl from Adventureland.' She badly needs to get out of the business of playing storybook virginal princess types, however, and I hope she and the people around her have enough sense not to let Bella define the rest of her career. (I haven't seen “On the Road” yet; maybe that will help.) She cuts a fetching line in both gowns and suits of armor, but this Snow White … calls for both broad hambone instincts and a natural aristocratic bearing. Stewart possesses neither, looking and acting rather too much like a standoffish American girl faking a posh accent.” Andrew O'Hehir, Salon.com.

“What of this picture's Snow White? I cannot tell a lie, it's true: For a fairly long stretch of the movie, Kristen Stewart just wasn't doing it for me. But she grows into her character, it seems, and eventually got this reviewer completely on her side. But the real find here is Hemsworth, whose climactic speech to a lost-in-a-spell Snow White is one of the movie's true highlights. … This slightly overstuffed entertainment rises, in part thanks to him, to one of the most pleasant surprises of the summer movie season so far.” Glenn Kenny, MSN Movies.

Charlize Theron as Evil Queen Ravenna / Snow White and the Huntsman picture: Alex Bailey / Universal Pictures.

Kristen Stewart 2012 Snow White and the Huntsman
Kristen Stewart 2012: Snow White and the Huntsman

Final Charlize Theron / Kristen Stewart reviews for their performances in Rupert Sanders' Snow White and the Huntsman. In the fantasy adventure, Stewart plays Snow White; Theron, a Best Actress Oscar winner for Monster, plays the Evil Queen Ravenna, who needs to eat Snow White's beating heart in order to remain young and beautiful, and, while at it, get rid of the competition. The Cabin in the Woods / The Avengers' Chris Hemsworth co-stars as the Huntsman; Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides' Sam Claflin plays Prince Charming.

The positive notices for Charlize Theron – and there were quite a few – weren't unexpected. Theron has been around for about 15 years, and won a Best Actress Oscar for Monster in early 2004 and an Oscar nod for North Country in early 2006. But “great existential screen presence” is hardly what most people – that includes her fans – would come up with when discussing Kristen Stewart's thespian talents. But it's there, in Nick Pinkerton's eloquent Snow White and the Huntsman review for the L.A. Weekly. Check it out (second review):

“Stewart has to tread a fine line as Snow White between passive victim and active protagonist, and it's surprising how successfully she does so. It's popular to criticise Stewart for a lack of range, but here her performance works quite well. What's particularly impressive is how flawless her accent is. In fact, hers is the most consistent accent in the film, even amongst the cast members born and raised in England. By contrast Theron's attempt changes more or less with every shot, while Hemsworth's attempt at a Scottish accent - presumably to differentiate the Huntsman from his recent turn as Thor - is just a bit odd.” Ben Mortimer at the UK-based Hey U Guys.

“Giving a fiery call-to-arms speech to a mass of assembled troops in a third act that has her essentially transformed into Joan of Arc, Stewart is miles outside her range, but she remains a great existential screen presence. There are a number of 'supercuts' floating around YouTube that mockingly catalog Stewart's mannerisms — the sideways glances, the lip gnashed with the Chiclet overbite — but what the compilers fail to recognize is that many of our finest classical film actors have made brilliant careers from a single, essential expression.” Nick Pinkerton, L.A. Weekly.

Kristen Stewart has two other movies coming out in 2012:

  • Walter Salles' On the Road, which received mixed reviews at the Cannes Film Festival, has already opened in France. In addition to Stewart (as Marylou), On the Road features Sam Riley, Garrett Hedlund, Kirsten Dunst, Viggo Mortensen, Amy Adams, Danny Morgan, Alice Braga, and Tom Sturridge.
  • Bill Condon's The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn - Part 2, in which Kristen Stewart plays Bella Swan, torn between a centenarian vampire and a teenage werewolf, for the last time. Starring opposite her are Robert Pattinson's Edward Cullen (vamp) and Taylor Lautner's Jacob Black (wolf). Also in the Breaking Dawn - Part 2 cast are Elizabeth Reaser, Peter Facinelli, Booboo Stewart, Kellan Lutz, Ashley Greene, Nikki Reed, Jackson Rathbone, Billy Burke, Michael Sheen, Dakota Fanning, and Jamie Campbell Bower.

Charlize Theron has another 2012 release as well, Ridley Scott's horror sci-fier Prometheus, featuring Michael Fassbender, Noomi Rapace, Logan Marshall-Green, Guy Pearce, Idris Elba, Sean Harris, and Rafe Spall. Prometheus has already opened in several countries, including France and the United Kingdom.

As for Chris Hemsworth, he already has two 2012 releases: Drew Goddard's horror tale The Cabin in the Woods and Joss Whedon's worldwide blockbuster The Avengers, co-starring Chris Evans, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Robert Downey Jr, Mark Ruffalo, and Tom Hiddleston. Next in line for Hemsworth is Dan Bradley's Red Dawn, with Josh Hutcherson, Isabel Lucas, and Josh Peck. Next year, Hemsworth will be seen in Ron Howard's Rush, an auto-racing drama co-starring Olivia Wilde, Daniel Brühl, Alexandra Maria Lara, and Natalie Dormer.

An upcoming Sam Claflin project is called The Quiet Ones, a horror / suspense thriller to be made by Hammer Films.

Kristen Stewart / Snow White and the Huntsman photo: Alex Bailey / Universal Pictures.

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