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Featured Blu-ray / DVD Review: Snow White and the Huntsman

September 10th, 2012

Snow White and the Huntsman - Extended Edition - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack

Snow White and the Huntsman was one of two big-budget adaptations of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves fairytale. The first, Mirror Mirror, was a much more colorful affair while this one is a much darker, grittier interpretation of the story. Is it also more compelling?

The Movie

The film begins with a prologue describing the early life of Snow White, from her mother, the queen, making a wish to have a child, to the cold winter that took her mother's life. To the war where her father, the King, defeated a dark army and rescued a prisoner, Ravenna. The king was instantly in love and the pair were wed the very next day. It is not a fairytale romance and that night she kills the king and leads an army into the castle and she becomes The Evil Queen. Some of the King's men escape escape, including the Duke and his son, William, but Snow White is captured and locked away.

Years later, the now teenage Snow White is still locked away away while The Evil Queen has drained all the live from the Kingdom itself. There are some forces that still fight against the Queen, but she has a dark magic protecting her. However, in order to maintain her power, and her beauty, she must consume the youth of other women. She learns from the Mirror Man (Christopher Obi) that if she consumes the heart of Snow White, she will be granted immortality. However, when the Queen's brother, Finn, goes to retrieve her, Snow White is aided by some birds and manages to escape and is chased into the Dark Forest. Since the queen has no powers in the Dark Forest, she needs someone to go in there and get Snow White. The only one she can find is The Huntsman. At first he refuses, until the Queen promises to bring back his dead wife.

The Huntsman leads Finn into the Dark Forest and finds Snow White, but when Finn reveals the Queen lied about reviving his dead wife, the Huntsman switches sides. (Although at this point he still has no idea who she is.) Meanwhile, Prince William learns that Snow White is still alive, and trapped in the Dark Forest. He rides off to save her, but not knowing the Dark Forest himself, he hides his identity and travels with Finn and his men, who are still looking for Snow White.

After another narrow escape, Snow White and The Huntsman are captured again, this time by Dwarves, seven of them: Beith, the leader; Muir, the blind elder; Quert, Muir's son; Nion, second in command; Coll and Duir, brothers; Gort, the grumpy one; and Gus, the youngest of the group. The seven dwarves actually know the Huntsman, and at first plan to kill him, but when they learn she is the daughter of the King, and when Muir senses her part in the prophecy to end the Queen, they agree to fight with her.

Snow White and the Huntsman is a much more modern re-telling of the fable, although not a true modern adaptation, because it is set in a medieval period. (And it is a medieval setting and not a pure fantasy setting, because Snow White says The Lord's Prayer at one point. That felt out of place to me.) I did think there was quite a lot to like about the movie, including having Snow White being a lot more proactive in her own story. This is what made the film feel modern and it is an improvement over the original story and the more traditional adaptations. I also thought Kristen Stewart and Chris Hemsworth had good chemistry together. Charlize Theron is over the top as The Evil Queen, but in a way that makes sense within the film. She also has a backstory that does make her a more sympathetic character, or at the very least, a more well-rounded character. Additionally, the film looks great, assuming you can get into the gritty fairytale aesthetics, which I did.

There are some serious downsides that prevent it from being a great movie. Firstly, there are pacing issues. I did only watch the extended edition, but it is only four or five minutes longer, so I doubt that's the cause of this problem. Also, both Finn and Prince William were flatly written and because of that, they felt unnecessary. Having a secondary bad guy feel tacked on is a minor issue. Having the 'prince charming' character in a fairytale feel the same way is a lot bigger problem.

Overall the strengths overcome the weaknesses and Snow White and the Huntsman is a solidly good movie, but not a great movie.

The Extras

The extras on the DVD start with an audio commentary with the director, Rupert Sanders; the visual-effects supervisor, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan; and the co-editor, Neil Smith. As you can probably tell from the choice of participants, it is a technically minded commentary track. There is also a 21-minute long making of featurette. That's not a huge amount for a first-run release, but enough to be a solid rental.

The Blu-ray adds a U-Control Picture-in-Picture track with plenty of information and behind-the-scenes video. There are two more making of featurettes, one of the adaptation and another on the special effects. Next up are featurettes on the characters (Snow White, The Evil Queen, The Huntsman, and The Dwarves). There is also Around the Kingdom: 360° Set Tour, which allow you to look at various locations in the movie. That's a substantial increase in extras.

The Blu-ray also looks and sounds amazing. We are talking reference level video transfer with incredible details, even in the darkest scenes, you never lose fine detail or textures. The colors are incredibly vivid, even if the movie does tend to look gray a lot. (There's a lot of mud in the movie.) There are no compression issues, digital artifacts, etc. The 7.1 audio track is just as good with amazing clarity, bountiful activity from the surround sound speakers, and the subwoofer gets a workout numerous times. To emphasize, it is reference level quality. This is a movie you can use to show off your home theater system

As for the price, the Blu-ray costs just $20, which is less than 20% more than the DVD. That would be a great deal, even if there were no additional extras.

The Verdict

My expectations for Snow White and the Huntsman were mixed, as were its reviews. However, it was better than I was anticipating and it is worth picking up. The DVD doesn't have a lot of extras, so it is better as a rental, but the Blu-ray Combo Pack is clearly the better deal.

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Filed under: Video Review, Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror Mirror