Better and more darkly imaginative than its headache of a coming-attractions trailer suggests,
The story elements going back to the early 19th century Brothers Grimm version remain present, with tweaks. Snow White, the daughter of the king, endures the death of her mother and acquires a stepmom (stepqueen?) in suspiciously short order. The interloper with the aging issues here carries the name Ravenna, and her magic mirror comes with advanced digital properties and shape-shifting "Terminator 2" quicksilver technology unavailable to the Grimm boys.
For years Ravenna locks Snow White up in an unattractive wing of the seaside castle, and the kingdom goes to pot while the evil queen and her sniveling brother swan and skulk from morn to night. After a daring escape, Snow White is pursued by the huntsman of the title, under Ravenna's "or else" decree.
There are dwarfs to be met, Shakespearean echoes aplenty (
Yes, she can. No, her range isn't infinite. Certain behavioral and technical fallbacks — the quick-exhale-then-grin, for example — persist in fantasy roles as well as realistic ones. But from the beginning, certainly from
"Snow White and the Huntsman" represents an intelligent stretch for the actress best known for the teen-dating guide known as
This is a violent film. It's rougher, in fact, than
First-time feature film director Rupert Sanders worked from a heavily developed script by Evan Daugherty,
'Snow White and the Huntsmen' -- 3 stars
MPAA rating: PG-13 (for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality)
Running time: 2:07