They say the former king's daughter, Snow White, has escaped, bless her. You hadn't heard? It's all up and down the street. Haven't you even seen all those guards riding with swords clanking? After being imprisoned in one of those castle towers for 10 long years, the poor dear somehow managed to slip through that evil Queen Ravenna's fingers and make a run for it!
She was such a pretty little thing all those years ago—skin white as snow, hair black as ebony, lips red as blood. Who knows what she may be like now. I heard she had to run into the dark forest to escape. And my Hubert says that neither man nor beast can live long in that nasty place.
Of course, there's good magic about that girl. Everyone knows it. They say that witchy queen—ptooey on her, I say—sent a drunken huntsman out after the girl. And wouldn't you know it, the young thing somehow turned the big gorilla over to her way of thinking. That's magic if you ask me. And there's even talk that a gang of dwarfs has rallied to her cause too. Can you believe it?
I only hope it's true. Goodness knows we need a little change hereabouts. Ever since that devilish Ravenna killed the king and took the throne, the whole land has gone to filth and rot. It's bad magic I tell ya. Black magic!
They say this Snow will heal the land. May it be so, is all I'll say. May it be so.
When a magical golden mirror warns Ravenna that Snow White's goodness and purity could be her queenly downfall, Ravenna fights tooth and nail to somehow snatch Snow's heart and blot those good things from the land. It's the framework for a classic good-vs.-evil battle in which Snow somehow manages to convince man, beast and dwarf alike that they must fight for what is right and set their kingdom free.
Snow's willing to risk her life for that fight. She rides alongside brave soldiers into a hail of enemy arrows, and she stands weaponless before a giant troll to keep it from killing a fallen friend. Her actions cause a dwarf to dream of being proud of his people once more. "I see an end to the darkness," another one says. A third readily jumps forward to take a deadly arrow meant for her.
The Huntsman is filled with grief over his wife's untimely death. He talks of his undying love for the woman. And he sees a spark of who she was in Snow—prompting him to fight without falter to protect the girl.
When we first see the adult Snow White, she picks up a pair of handmade figures representing her deceased royal parents and prays, "Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done …"
The rest of the film's spiritual references bounce back and forth between a fairy mythology and Queen Ravenna's very dark craft. Before she's even born, her mother's pricked finger and drops of blood on the snow sets some of Snow White's magic in motion, leaving her "destined" to "heal the land." A group of dwarfs state that their physical ailments have disappeared after being near her. And creatures of the forest approach her with a sort of reverence. A huge troll stops its rampage at her word, and a giant white stag—revered as a creature of great import in several mythologies—bows to give her his blessing.
We learn later that Ravenna's mother concocted a magical potion with three drops of her daughter's blood—mysteriously mirroring Snow's mother's accidental incantation. In this case, though, Ravenna drank the potion, and it gave her magical powers and control over her "greatest asset," her beauty.
Subsequently Ravenna casts a number of black spells: She creates soldiers out of ebony shards; she regains youth and beauty by sucking the life force out of young girls; she transforms herself into a flock of ravens and into the shape of a young man; she telekinetically crushes a man's heart within his body; she empowers a burnished gold disc that morphs into a faceless mirror figure; and she heals wounds on her brother and herself.
We hear an exclamation of "gods!"
Queen Ravenna wears cleavage-boosting dresses. She strips off her robe and sinks into a white cream-filled pool, where we see her from the waist up as she covers her breasts with her arms. After she's lost much of her beauty, becoming bony and depleted, we see her naked form again (from the back).
Tiny fairy creatures are seemingly naked, covered in a fine fur or hair. Ravenna's brother approaches a reclining Snow and puts his hands on her waist and shoulder in a (somewhat) seductive way. Snow and her childhood friend Prince William kiss. The Huntsman, in his grief, kisses a deceased Snow's lips after lamenting his inability to protect her.
The king begins kissing Ravenna's neck on their wedding night, both of them dressed in nightgowns …
… only to discover it's war that's on her mind, not love. She talks of kings using and discarding beauty, then straddles her new husband and plunges a knife into his chest. (We see a blood stain spread across the white linen that covers him.) She then opens the castle gates and her dark army swarms the fortress, butchering the king's unwary forces. It's an initial battle that features extended sequences of sword hacking and stabbing.
Later, a climactic battle involves a considerable amount of hand-to-hand combat and many more bloody deaths. Magical entities impale and throw soldiers about. Arrows rain down and pierce the chest plates of the men on horseback. Burning bombs are catapulted into a charging force; they explode, sending fighters sprawling.
Ravenna is stabbed in the gut by an attacker. (She magically pulls the blade out with no apparent damage.) To prove her power, she steps into a roaring fire, where we see her skin begin to crisp and burn—then magically heal again. Later, though, she is vanquished by another stab—this one bloody—and she dies in agony, shriveling into an ancient husk of her former self.
She uses her magic to hurl men away from her. She slaps Snow around, sending the girl face-first into a stone step (bloodying her mouth). She wears metal claws on her fingers that she rakes foes with. And we see her use a talon to dig into the open bloody chest of a small bird, scooping out its small heart and popping it into her mouth.
A flock of ravens dies, crashing down on the floor of an open courtyard, bones snapping and broken bodies flopping. It's out of the resulting tar-like mire that Queen Ravenna's form magically reconstitutes and crawls forward.
The Huntsman slashes at assailants with his oversized ax, also using it to parry their sword blows. While battling a huge troll, he runs between the creature's legs and hacks with bloody abandon at its calves. The beast responds by smacking the man into a rock outcropping and knocking him senseless. Prince William is portrayed as a Robin Hood-like warrior who pierces many a man with his lightning-fast arrows.
Snow, in full armor, kills several people with sword blows and stabs to the chest. Ravenna's brother is slammed against a fallen tree trunk, where he's impaled on its broken, jagged surface. He screams in the throes of death—and miles away Ravenna falls to the floor in agony too.
Snow White, of course, is poisoned by a magic apple and falls to the ground in gasping torment.
Crude or Profane Language
Two uses of "h‑‑‑," one of "d‑‑n."
Drug and Alcohol Content
Numbing himself against the grief of his wife's death, the Huntsman is usually either drunk or pretty regularly drawing from a wineskin that hangs from his belt. But when he and Snow meet the dwarfs, they give him quite a run for his mead-gulping money. The king knocks over a chalice full of wine.
Snow falls into a patch of spore-spewing vegetation in the dark forest, and she begins to see malevolent swirling hallucinations—including swarms of noxious insects, branches that transform into snapping snakes and snarling man-sized creatures with bat wings. When Ravenna's brother is sprayed with these spores, his hands appear to melt.
Other Negative Elements
Queen Ravenna lies to the Huntsman, promising to resurrect his dead wife with her magic. Several dwarfs sneak into a fortified city through the sewers, making a few toilet humor jokes about their surroundings.
I've always liked fairy tales, whether in cartoony-flick or storybook-for-the-kids form. But it appears that those "once upon a time" sweet and innocent versions don't often make the grade nowadays. Today's reimaginings usually have to come with a bit more bite.
So, in this case, an evil and vain queen is reshaped into a horribly powerful witch who magically and forcibly extracts the beauty from young girls, and nibbles on the bloody hearts of small birds. A group of dwarfs is recast as a gang of hard-boiled, pick-swinging mug-tippers. And a beautiful princess must, of course, be able to save herself, while leading an army's charge and slaying matriarchal monsters with her own blade.
If that all sounds too much like an overly cranky indictment, let me say at this point that on a few fronts this new approach to Snow's story works. Heightened danger offers more chance for self-sacrificial bravery. And the cinematic sweep feels much grander than it did in past renditions—with visually provocative quests sprawling their way through dark gnarled forests, dew-kissed sparkling fairy lands and crisp, icy mountaintops.
But, yes, it's mostly an indictment, and one that's provable enough not to be branded haphazard or merely cranky. The movie picks up elements from The Lord of the Rings and several Joan of Ark movies as Twilight's Kristen Stewart dons armor and grabs a sword, and Charlize Theron chews up the scenery in a hungry rage. The action, while spectacular in its presentation, is largely predictable. And there are far too many characters to keep track of, much less be charmed by. Wanna introduce your youngest kiddo to a group of hungover dwarfs? Or roaring beasties? Wanna leave them in the delusion-riddled dark forest? Within reach of Queen Ravenna's dark spells?
Let's just say that this is no bedtime story, then, and be done with it.
A postscript: The moral of this moviemaking story is that even in Hollywood it takes more than a pretty exterior to make something appealing and good underneath. And isn't that what Snow White has been telling us all along?
Other Belief Systems
Readability Age Range
Drama, Action/Adventure, Sci-Fi/Fantasy, War
Kristen Stewart as Snow White; Charlize Theron as Queen Ravenna; Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman; Sam Claflin as William; Sam Spruell as Finn
June 1, 2012
Bob Hoose Bob Hoose