Review in a Hurry: A beautiful queen's reign is threatened by her entitled brat of a stepdaughter. This version of the classic fairy tale isn't that much of a reimagining. But when Charlize Theron asks that mirror who's the fairest of them all and the answer is Kristen Stewart, one can't help but think that the mirror needs glasses.
The costumes are wicked cool, the special effects impress, and the finale is sufficiently rousing, but the script takes no chances with characters that are all good or all bad.
The Bigger Picture: Queen Ravenna's (Theron) power is focused on maintaining her movie-star looks no matter the cost. Every now and then she needs to feed on the local peasants that her creepy brother (Sam Spruell) brings to the castle. She literally sucks the life out of them.
A small price to pay to keep looking that fabulous.
But the years have worn on the killer queen. One day the magic mirror says that stepdaughter Snow White (Stewart), whom she locked up years ago, is the ticket to immortality—more specifically, the young royal's still-beating heart. But then Snow escapes, running into the Dark Woods where the queen's power holds no sway. The queen hires a huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to track the runaway down. But he falls for Snow, not the queen. Weird.
First-time director Rupert Sander assembles an excellent production team. Colleen Atwood's costumes have a cool, decadent feel, most notably with the queen's oil spill dress that drips black feathers. The art direction adds to this feeling of unnaturalness. However, as a director Sander tends to play the scenes out too straight. The script by Evan Daugherty is too on point with characters saying exactly what they feel and not much else. This is more of a makeover of the familiar tale, and less of a different take.
Even the famed seven dwarfs (plus one!) aren't much more than a guessing game of name the actor—Ian McShane and Nick Frost are the standouts.
Still, Theron is a delight. Even as she's aging rapidly via terrific special effects and makeup, she maintains a positively magnetic presence. Her performance is all about counteracting a withering body that's used too much magic to stay young.
Then there's Snow White.
As played by Stewart, Snow's all stiff lips and exasperated sighs. That is, until the exciting finale. As Snow White Warrior Gal, Stewart finds a strength underneath her armor. She finally seems focused, determined. In short, someone to cheer for.
Although for most of the film's running time, our hearts are with the queen.
The 180—a Second Opinion: While the production impresses the cinematography is way too washed out. We want to bask in the glow of fairies, trolls, and charcoal-colored baddies. Why is there a soft overly muted feel to everything?
(E! and Universal Pictures are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)