Snow White and the Huntsman is a solemn affair providing an expansive, dark back-story to the Grimm fairy tale.  With the cinematography out of the Chronicles of Narnia:  The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe play book (though Snow White and the Huntsman loves the image of flowing liquid, from the mirror itself to the queen’s baptism bath to visions of fingers melting like wax), every shot is visually inventive and beautifully composed, evocative of a children’s picture book.  Debuting director Rupert Sanders interprets it with a Middle Earth flourish and disturbing imagery.  It’s like a Peter Jackson film by way of Guillermo del Toro’s Pan’s Labyrinth.  If only it were that satisfying.

“Is there no end to your power and beauty?” –Mirror

After a convoluted scheme to marry her way to the throne, obviously evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) drives Snow White (Kristen Stewart) into exile (after keeping her around until she comes of age for some reason).  The queen sends a Huntsman Eric (Thor‘s Chris Hemsworth) into the Dark Forest capture her.  And Snow White’s childhood chum, Prince William (Sam Claflin), jumps into the hunt.  The movie counts on a few familiar notes with Snow White still commanding the love of forest animals while the audience waits to see how the movie interprets the seven dwarves.  The movie doesn’t know what to do with them as their inherent humor threatens to intrude on the emo seriousness the movie revels in (although since she first encounters eight, you know one of them might as well have been wearing a red shirt).

Overall, the move is the archetypal story of an exile on a hero’s journey, to reclaim what’s hers, and restore the kingdom.  It brings to mind the movie Lady in the Water in how it is so self-consciously messianic in its structure and story-telling.

“The forest gains its strength from your weakness.” –Huntsman

The kingdom has to endure life after the fall (the death of the king) as the queen of this age gives this wretched world the queen it deserves.”  Her evil has poisoned the land and the people live under a curse.  The Dark Forest, the sphere of her kingdom, is the metaphor for life, as it is hard, dark, full of hardship, mystery and danger.  The queen, full of man-hating crazy, is confronted with a prophecy that haunts her:

“‘And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; he shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.’”  -Genesis 3:15

that “only by the fairest blood can it be undone,” an end to the darkness through blood.  Snow White is “of the blood” and is the source of the queen’s undoing or salvation.

Snow White, the destined/chosen one, is on her journey of messianic consciousness, gradually growing into her knowledge and role as the Messiah of her people.  She gives her people hope to become the people they were meant to be and live the lives they were supposed to lead.

After escaping the prison of the queen, Snow White eventually finds refuge in Eden Sanctuary, idyllic home of the faeries, a foretaste of what her rule could bring once she heals the land.  There she is blessed by the king of the faeries, Aslan the Holy Spirit a great white stag whose side gets pierced as a cost to her mission.

“I would rather die today than live another day with this death.” –Snow White

Eventually the film climaxes with her death and resurrection.  However, she apparently comes back as Joan of Arc and leads the army of the Lord in judgment of Ravenna (with Snow White as sword “the weapon”).  All of which to drive home the movie’s overarching message that love transforms, love redeems, and love conquers.

“The world seems beautiful again.” –Snow White

Snow White and the Huntsman is longer than it needs to be and gets bogged down in over-explaining things.  It juggles too many characters doing justice to few, with only Snow White, the Queen, and the Huntsman getting anything close to a complete portrait.  There is some shrill, over-the-top scene chewing by both the Queen and her brother, Finn (Sam Spruell).  Stewart stays within her Twilight lane, complete with lip-chewing romantic dilemma, summed up with the notion of who’s kiss was going to wake her up (which only brings to mind the disturbing idea that a lot of guys line up to kiss (apparently) dead women).

The entire movie is upstaged by the top notch design, Colleen Atwood’s costume department and Greig Fraser’s cinematography.  Keep in mind that the movie may be darker, scarier, and too disturbing for kids looking for a live action version of the beloved Disney film.