SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN (Rated PG-13)
The legend of Snow White has been revived this year in a TV series and two movies, the previous one in late March.
What accounts for this phenomenon is a mystery that defies explanation, at least from my vantage point.
As far as movies go, it is clear that Snow White has slipped from the grasp of the Walt Disney kingdom.
Earlier this year, “Mirror Mirror” proved an amiable, comedic take on the timeless fairytale.
“Snow White and the Huntsman,” elevating a warrior to co-equal status, is a darker, foreboding tale, where the cruel Queen is the ultimate incarnation of villainy. Again, no Disney magic found here.
But first, a prologue sets the stage. Snow White is a young child when her widower father, King Magnus, defeats an army and rescues the beautiful Ravenna (Charlize Theron) from supposed captivity.
Sad and lonely, the King is smitten by Ravenna’s beauty and quickly decides to marry her. On their wedding night, Queen Ravenna reveals her true colors, and it isn’t pretty.
On the marital bed, the King, for reasons to be left unexplained, demonstrates a lack of staying power. Thus, the evil Queen Ravenna promptly seizes the throne, tossing Snow White into a cold, damp cell in the palace tower.
To keep her status as the fairest beauty in the land, the Queen talks to her magic mirror, takes milk baths and in vampire-like fashion sucks the life out of every fair maiden she can find.
The Queen’s loyal sidekick is her wretched brother Finn (Sam Spruell), whose unfortunate blond page-boy haircut and pale skin apparently render him a pliable henchman serving her every twisted whim.
Foretelling the doom that awaits, the Queen’s fabled mirror, a shape-shifting device, warns that the kingdom is running out of fresh virgins and the sacrifice of Snow White is the Evil Queen’s only salvation.
Not surprisingly, Snow White breaks free of the castle and runs to the Dark Forest, a really grim place that is nicely realized by blackened trees, slithering snakes, and a monstrous troll. It’s dark enough that it should give nightmares to very young kids.
The Queen possesses numerous supernatural powers, including the ability to turn black ravens into an army of warriors, but she’s not keen on pursuing her stepchild into the forbidding forest.
Thus, the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), a fierce warrior reduced to a bitter drunkard as the result of the death of his wife, is enlisted to hunt down Snow White by a false promise given by the Queen.
Knowing the tricky terrain of the Dark Forest, the Huntsman takes little time in finding the princess and then precious little more time to be entranced by Snow’s plucky resolve.
Eluding the Queen’s brother and his gang, Snow White and the Huntsman end up seeking refuge in a camp where the only residents are women who have disfigured themselves as protection against the Queen’s ravenous appetite.
On the run once again, they end up being captured by the proverbial dwarves, this time all of them played by recognizable actors like Ian McShane, Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone.
A nice cinematic trick has miniaturized full-grown men into little people, the effect of which is so jarring that one ponders more how this was accomplished than to pay attention to the unfolding story.
As it should be, the dwarves add some much-needed humor into this bleak fairytale, but in the end they don’t provide as much comic relief as the story requires.
The dwarves serve a meaningful purpose of leading the Huntsman and Snow White into a magical fairyland, where cute animals and sprites frolic in a lush green forest.
After our duo hooks up with Prince William (Sam Claflin), the action then shifts abruptly to a medieval battle scene with a full-scale assault on the Evil Queen’s island fortress.
Snow White, dressed in a suit of armor like Joan of Arc, suddenly abandons her blank-eyed look and takes on the steely determination of a fierce warrior similar to that of her savior the Huntsman.
Of course, as to be expected, there is a showdown between Snow White and Queen Ravenna, where at first the princess is tossed around like a rag doll.
“Snow White and the Huntsman,” with elements of fantasy, romance, adventure and intense action, seems calculated to appeal to a wide-range of audiences. Indeed, it succeeds on several levels.
DVD RELEASE UPDATE
Long before he played the weary private eye James Rockford, James Garner was the wisecracking ladies’ man Bret Maverick in a Western TV series.
Now for the first time, “Maverick: The Complete First Season” is being released on DVD, containing all 27 episodes of Season One that average 50 minutes a clip.
Bret Maverick and his more serious brother Bart (Jack Kelly) are two handsome bachelors on the loose in the Wild West, traveling with a sense of humor and a knack for getting into trouble.
The two have more success at the game of poker than the game of love, yet their fondness for gambling invariably leads to some sort of frontier hassle.
“Maverick” is a classic and sometimes humorous Western series that was nominated for four Emmys and won one during its successful 5-year broadcast run.
For the right person, “Maverick: The Complete First Season” may prove a fitting Father’s Day gift.
Tim Riley writes film and television reviews for Lake County News.