Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Let me tell you a story…

It’s a story about a young princess named Snow White (Kristen Stewart). After her mother dies, her father is called to wage war against a mysterious dark army. After defeating the army, he frees a beautiful woman, Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who was their prisoner. He’s so enchanted by her that the next day he makes her his queen. Little does he know this will be his undoing.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

His new queen turns out to be an evil sorceress hell-bent on taking control of his kingdom with her dark army. First, she kills the king, then has the royal guard murdered. Snow White’s closest friend William, son of Duke Hammond, barely escapes with his father. Snow White is imprisoned in the tallest tower for many years, watching with dismay as the queen abducts young women from the villages and sucks the youth from them to keep herself an ageless beauty. Outside the castle, everyone assumes Snow is dead.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

The kingdom is plunged into darkness. The natural world is poisoned by the Queen’s presence and the land begins to rot.

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Until one day…

Snow White breaks free from her prison and escapes into the Dark Forest. The Queen is furious and sends her brother Finn to find someone to hunt her down, and he soon finds himself a huntsman, played by Chris Hemsworth.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

But once he meets Snow White, the Huntsman befriends her and together they navigate the dangerous Dark Forest. At one point, they’re accosted by a gang of dwarves. However, once they realize that Snow White is the princess and rightful heir to the throne, they decide to join her and the Huntsman on her quest to find William and the rest of her father’s army.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

William hears the news that Snow White is alive, and infiltrates Finn’s guard to find her. Meanwhile, Snow White and her comrades come across a village made up entirely of women who have ritualistically scarred their faces to keep themselves safe from the Queen’s jealousy. They give them shelter. But once night falls, Finn’s guards raze the village and Snow White narrowly escapes.

The dwarves lead Snow White and the Huntsman to the land of the fairies, where a magical white deer gives her its blessing to become queen of the land. Now it’s up to the Princess to lead the army as they take back the kingdom from the evil Queen Ravenna.

As of right now, Snow White and the Huntsman has a 47% rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Honestly, I think this is unfair. Because despite my best efforts, I really liked this movie. And don’t think that doesn’t piss me off, because it does. I went in expecting to hate it, and I just can’t. It does too many things right, and what is messes up feels so insignificant in comparison. Really, the most damning thing about this film is a character who isn’t even in it: Bella Swan.

Let’s be clear: Kristen Stewart is not an amazing actor. But she’s also not Bella Swan. She isn’t the simpering, blank-faced wastrel who tainted young adult fiction by romanticizing abusive relationships. But that’s basically how people see her. The Twilight Saga, for good or ill (wait, what am I saying?… entirely for ill) made a huge impact on her career, and when this film came out in 2012, we were all still reeling from it. Twilight Trauma had not yet been fully processed. We needed more time.

The casting of Stewart feels like an attempt to distance her from the vacuous cardboard cutout that is Bella. But the director seems to acknowledge that first, some reparations must be made. Catharsis must be had. So in the first few minutes of the movie, during her escape, she is: imprisoned, attacked, dragged through a sewer, covered in mud, and poisoned with violent hallucinogens. She might as well have come on screen and said, “Hi, I’m Kristen Stewart. I played Bella Swan and I’m really, really sorry. I will now get my ass kicked and then blossom into a strong, independent woman.” But of course, there’s more to this movie than just Snow White.

Charlize Theron plays the Queen. I’ve heard other critics say she was over the top and bizarre. I disagree wholeheartedly. Theron is an amazing actor, and she’s insane as Queen Ravenna. Both insane as a measure of how good her acting is, and insane as in totally nanners. The other Snow White movie of 2012 played the evil queen as a spoiled, trash-talking jerk. She was one-dimensional and boring. But Ravenna…

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Queen Ravenna gives the evil queen archetype new depth. She has a troubled backstory which helps us understand her complete hatred of men and the events that brought her to her current obsession with youth. She’s isn’t evil just because they needed a villain. She’s complicated and manipulative, and above all, absolutely bonkers. And speaking of amazing actors…

Have I mentioned yet how many “Oh shit, it’s [famous actor’s name]” moments there are in this film? Including:

“Oh shit, it’s Charlize Theron!”

“Oh shit, it’s Bob Hoskins!”

“Oh shit, it’s Ian McShane!”

“Oh shit, it’s Nick Frost!”

I was surprised at how many actors of normal height were playing the dwarves, Hoskins and Frost among them. But fortunately, simple tricks of editing were all that was needed to make this seamless. Nothing would be more awful than Nick Frost’s head digitally pasted onto a tiny dwarf body.

Caption contributed by Nycea

Although now I really want to see that.

The film is not without its flaws. The beginning is riddled with several moments where things happen because they need to happen for the story to progress. Snow White happens to grab a nail in the wall to use as a weapon against Finn, which she never noticed before, even though she’s been imprisoned in this room for ten years. She happens to see birds and decides to follow them to safety. Then, she happens to find a horse waiting on the beach for no reason. It gets pretty ridiculous. But once she’s out of the castle, things start to make a lot more sense.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

Really, the main issues seem to have been caused by important scenes/dialogue getting cut. For example, Snow White is brought to Fairy Land and stands before a great white stag with tree antlers, and everyone makes a huge deal out of it. The way the scene is shot, the stag is like Aslan. Light pours in from the background, and a choir fills the soundtrack, and then… nothing. The scene ends, and none of this is ever spoken of again. It was only a device to prove that Snow White is Neo. Or Jesus. You’re a princess, Harry.

This movie also has a bizarre tendency to reference other fantasy movies in less than subtle ways. Some are small things, like how Ravenna seems to channel Queen Bavmorda. Others are not so small.

Caption contributed by Nycea

They’re a collective, not a fellowship. Totally different.

Caption contributed by Nycea

No! Kristen, you mustn’t! It’s forbidden!

Surprisingly, the other subplot that suffers from the editing is the love story. The Huntsman (we never learn his name) and William have a modest amount of tension about them both being in love with Snow. They both kiss her, but only one breaks the death spell. She doesn’t know who, nor does she seem to care, because she immediately walks straight out into the courtyard to deliver a rousing speech to the troops. No time for romance, I have a bitch to slap! And my honest reaction was… fuck yeah! It’s too often the case in films with female protagonists that the plot will come to standstill because of less important relationship stuff. Luckily, Snow White is too busy saving her kingdom.

Snow White and the Huntsman (2012)

After generations of helpless princesses, finally we’re getting somewhere. Even if we’re getting there with Kristen Stewart. Okay, her acting is mediocre. But she’s so present in this story. She frees herself from the castle, she fights the guards, she earns allies, and charges headlong into battle against her captors, all with nary a midriff in sight. There are no scenes where she’s forced to wear any sort of sexy outfit. Amazingly enough, Snow White, the epitome of fairy tale passivity, is unapologetically gender neutral here. And that is just too rare not to respect.

This movie really does get a bad rap. It’s unfortunate that Stewart’s previous association with the Twilight franchise and her scandalous affair with director Rupert Sanders overshadowed the genuine quality of his film. Due to the scandal, the planned sequel is reportedly going forward with a different director. I can only pray the new director, whoever he/she is, allows Snow to continue being a badass.

So, much to my surprise, I highly recommend Snow White and the Huntsman.

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  • CaptainCalvinCat

    I can agree with that. Snow White and the Huntsman was a movie, that I thoroughly enjoyed. It was about time, that Snow White would be the main protagonist in her own story. ^^
    by the way, what do you think of the depiction of Snow in “Once upon a time”?

    • Animikean

      Since we’re on the subject of new takes on old characters, what did you think of Snow White in 10th Kingdom?

  • John Wilson

    You know,one reason I’m a fan of polygamy,its because we can cut a lot out of love triangles,squares etc in entertainment. Think how much time we would save if the main character pick both love interests in almost any situation. And I though “Huntsman” was alright.

    • $36060516

      Interesting point, although polygamous relationships aren’t necessarily free of interpersonal tension, jealousy, and conflict!

  • Spocksbro

    I can’t agree to recommend this film; Stewart just doesn’t have any “presence” onscreen.

    But I’m with you 100% re Theron, who gets one of my all-time favorite lines: “I will give this wretched world the ruler it deserves.”

    • Magdalen

      It definitely could have been helped by a better actor in the lead role. The CHARACTER is good, the actor is…meh.

      • Hitchmeister

        I didn’t hate this movie. I could have really loved it. But to do that, it would have needed a really dynamic lead actress to take a role with some meat on it and run with it. Unfortunately Kristen Stewart did nothing to give lie to all the memes about her having only one facial expression to convey all emotions. I don’t know if she’s incapable of busting out an animated performance, afraid to take a chance, or just a victim of directors keeping her low key. But she didn’t deliver a top billing performance in this.

  • nejiblue

    So the movie’s great because it makes the female character “gender neutral” (aka you could have either a man or woman play her and it wouldn’t impact the plot at all) and it’s one of the greatest movies of all time. Par the course for agony booth I guess. I remeber when this used to be a fun, MST3K-style site as opposed to the liberal progressive mouthpiece it has become. A shit movie wins no favors with me because it champions progressive causes, and this looks like no exception.

    Oh, and in cause any of your nimrod followers would like to attack me for being a conservative whore, Robocop is one of my all time favorite movies. Care to guess why motherfuckers? Oh yeah, because despite being liberal as fuck, verhoeven was actually interested in making a great movie first and his own political views second. You don’t have to agree with his political views to love robocop as a movie. What a fucking concept huh?

    sigh I hate politics. I get enough of this shit on escapist, polygon, kotaku, the list goes on and on.

    • $36060516

      Wow, nobody said anything hostile to you. You’re the one right out of the gate calling everyone here “motherfuckers” and calling their opinions “shit” while incomprehensibly also seeking to converse with said “motherfuckers” about your opinions on movies and social issues. Seems like you’re trying to create a self-fulfilling prophecy of everyone hating you for your righteous positions of moral and intellectual integrity when in actually people tend not to care for being talked to in your insulting manner. Try to go outside or pet a dog or something to chill out.

    • Magdalen

      Haha oh yeah, I remember you. You used to bitch at me about PGSM too. I guess I can’t do anything right. In fact, you seem to yell at everyone on this site. It makes me wonder why you bother showing up.

    • rizzo


      *goes on a political rant completely out of the blue*

      Damn dude save it for Freep and don’t go to the Agony Booth if it’s a ‘liberal progressive mouthpiece’.

  • The Horror Guru

    The movie’s biggest problem is indeed the casting of Kristen Stewart, but once you get past that I thought it was pretty solid myself.

  • $36060516

    I need a “Totally Nanners” t-shirt.

    I haven’t seen the movie. What is the explanation (I’m sure there is one) for the Queen sucking the youth and beauty out of all these other women but leaving Snow White intact for all that time?

    • Sean Tadsen

      I think it’s because her authority comes from serving as regent. At least until the mirror tells her that if she eats Snow’s heart she’ll become immortal.

    • Magdalen

      I will try and get you said T-shirt! Pretty much one line, “You never know when you might need royal blood.” Soooo… no sense made.

      • Sean Tadsen

        Well, royals are supposed to be special. For a long time, it was believed that the kings of France and England could heal with a touch (seriously, look it up). And given all the other magic stuff going on, there might be something to it.

  • Alexa

    I know Kristen Stewart can be a good actress, just watch her earlier work most especially a movie called Speak (also based on a teen novel but an actual good one), but maybe here it just wasn’t the right role for her *shrugs*. And yeah its just unfortunate that her break out role was in Twilight but I’m hoping she’ll take a role that will just be right for her and blow away any notions that she is only Bella Swan, because she does have the capacity to be very good.

    • danbreunig

      Full Of Questions did her own review about Speak and dug into it (movie and book) quite well, also saying that Stewart was a nice actor before Twilight. Give it a look while you’re here.

      • Magdalen
      • Alexa

        Oh I’ve seen it, you can see my very long comments. Seriously I was on a commenting storm that day :)

        • danbreunig

          I just went back there for the first in a long while, and you’re right. My goof.

          • Alexa

            It was a while ago and they’re on the bottom of the page no biggie…

  • Mike

    I’m glad to see that I wasn’t the only one who liked this. (Yes I’m exaggerating the whole “I’m alone in the universe” thing, it’s just nice to hear minority opinion before you put it out yourself sometimes).
    Honestly, I had the advantage going in of never seeing a single Twilight movie. So I wasn’t tented by the reminders of Bella Swan that you rightful point overshadows the goals of Huntsman to give us more ‘proactive’ Snow White. The only other Kristen Stewart performance I’d ever scene was in The Runaways which I LOVED, despite some major flaws buts that’s a whole other story.
    I have to question however, your claim of a gender neutral role for the Snow White character just a tad. But in a good way. We do see a nurturing side to her with the little girl in the village and the final battle with the Queen does have a brief moment where she to look a bit sad about killing her. As I said somewhere else on this site, too often action heroines seem to be written so that nothing remotely feminine is present. It’s like the character that could just as easily be played be a man and you wouldn’t no the difference. Which may create more diverse opportunities for women, but not very rich characters. One the reasons for Wonder Women’s enduring popularity is that she believes compassion and mercy are not incompatible with strength and courage. This is one of the few live movies in recent years that have given us a character with this duality. The only other ones I can think of are the two Hunger Games. Which were more complex movies with more complex characters to be sure, but this is still a fairy tale after all.

    • Magdalen

      Gender-neutral is a loaded term. Take your example of empathy, we all know men are totally capable of empathy. But it’s considered a feminine trait. Not because women are more capable but because it’s traditionally associated with women. Stoicism is the same way. Women can totally be stoic (see: Ripley.) but it’s traditionally considered a male trait. Snow White in this film is way more active than your traditional princess character. Which is considered very male. But she also expresses sorrow and empathy for the damage that she’s causing (in both her horse and the Queen.) so that’s feminine.

      Really what puzzles me here is why the movie is called “Snow White AND the Huntsman”. I could certainly understand if he had more to do with the story but really looking back- he has no arch. He’s a widower, so we automatically feel for him. He takes Snow White’s side and falls in love with her and then movie switches entirely over to Snow White’s arch. He never gets any resolution to the two main things we know about him. His dead wife and Snow. And yet in some of the movie posters he’s actually larger than her on the poster. My best guess is this was either a:) an attempt to distance the movie from Kristen Stewart’s reputation, or b:) a way too pull in the ladies lovin’ the Chris Hemsworth.

      • Hitchmeister

        When you get Thor in your movie, you make a big deal about it.

  • seasnake

    My only problem with the movie is the same thing I have with many fantasy movies made in the 1990s and on: having women fight as well as men. Unless they are like Breanne of Tarth in Game of Thrones with an atypical build and years of training and devotion, the facts are the average woman cannot survive a contest in full plate armor with a man. That’s the reason why medieval armies were comprised of men with a very few exceptions (most of which were able to pass themselves off as men) and also why
    They did this in Narnia too (Prince Caspian) where they had Susan doing things that she could never have done (like throwing an arrow with her hand hard enough to kill a man!) while still having a girl, model-esque physique.
    I’m all for equality but not all situations are equal. Men historically are the soldiers and warriors for a reason. Snow White should have collapsed from exhaustion mid battle. Even a man with a stronger frame needs a significant amount of time to learn to fight and march and ride in full plate. Ever try to mount a horse? Now try doing it with 70 more pounds dragging at you… very difficult, in fact, for jousting tournaments the knights were hoisted into position.

    • Magdalen

      That has more to do with cultural expectations, but I mostly agree. Men are generally more physically fit because they’re expected to do more physical work. Hence more emphasis on strength. There have been matriarchal societies where women are the hunters and da-yum those women are more buff than I could ever imagine to be.

      I did scratch my head for a moment when Snow White was escaping the palace guards. Like, if she had been trapped in a cell for all those years, all of her muscles would have atrophied. She’d have absolutely no endurance or stamina. It would take years to build back the kind of lean muscle required to wear armor and fight baddies!

      • Muthsarah

        That’s one of the things I like about the recent “chick with a bow” trend: You don’t need heavy armor if you can bisect a man’s trachea from 50 feet and then outpace his angry buddies. Yes, it does create a kind of caste system by giving the men swords and the women bows, but it does make sense (at least as regards modern bows), and gives everybody something to do, two different kinds of cinematic flashiness. Of course, Legolas screwed that up somewhat. Thanks, Pete.

        I’m assuming young girls today aren’t going to misread too much about physics, biology, gender relations, and sensible conflict resolution from fantasy movies like this one. I just wonder what it’s gonna take to get more sorceresses on the screen. What better way to counter some thug’s superior upper body strength than with a lightning bolt? You want gender-neutral fantasy weapons? Bring back magic!

      • seasnake

        Actually I believe it has more to do with biology than cultural expectations, even the greatest female body builder cannot lift the same sheer tonnage as a male who has done the same amount of lifting. My wife played rugby and is a strong (and really tough) person but she’s scrimmaged with the male teams (college) and there’s no comparison. There are simply gender based physical differences that are there, and that’s why many pre-industrial societies had male soldiers almost exclusively.
        I do agree about the escape and the armor, in theory she’s been languishing and never done more running than around her cell! It’s like Rapunzel in “Tangled”, she’s spunky and confident and has all these talents instead of speaking Nellish and scared of her own shadow despite years of isolation and mental abuse/neglect. Makes for a more fun story, but sometimes it’s too much.
        Really, the full plate was the killer diller. Just give her some studded leather and no shield and a short sword and I’m buying it much better.

        • Magdalen

          There are definite physical differences between men and women regarding strength. Men are built for strength, women more for dexterity. However I would argue that a quick, agile person is totally capable of besting someone twice their size. ;)

          • CaptainCalvinCat

            Of course there are possibilities. Use physics (“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” – Archimedes. ) or dirty tricks – just for example – if that “twice the size” of the agile person is a man – just kick him in the groin. He’ll go down. And then another kick to the chin – he’s out.

  • JD

    I have this movie on my DVR but not watched it yet.

  • mofs

    This is one of my fantasy film guilty pleasures, alongside Legend and Willow. The special effects (especially in the scenes with the mirror and the queen) were stunning, and it leant an interesting twist on the original story.

  • Jennifer Schillig

    I’m afraid I simply couldn’t warm up to this. It did have a lot of elements to recommend it, but it seemed to me the whole wasn’t up to the sum of its parts. Plus, it ended without really resolving the conflicts set up in the romantic subplot…it seemed to be setting up Erik and Snow, but the ending didn’t follow up on it.
    And, contrary to your opinion, I liked Mirror Mirror. I liked the Princess Bride-ish tone it had to it, I liked its visuals, I liked the fact that it incorporated some darker elements without drowning in them. And as much as I like Chris Hemsworth (especially all those photos of him carrying baby Chipmunk Cheeks), I have a mad crush on Armie Hammer (and was glad your review praised him).

  • TheCrazyFish

    People forget the reason Robert Pattinson and Kristen Stewart came across as such terrible actors in the Twilight movies is because, as they themselves admitted, they hated the shit out of Twilight and the characters they were playing, and intentionally did a bad job in hopes everyone else would hate it as much as they did.

  • Jo Mathie

    I feel bad, because while I genuinely did quite enjoy this – some of the cinematography was great, the plot didn’t always make sense but it was at least engaging, and Charlize Theron’s queen was brilliant (loved what they did with the mirror too) – I couldn’t get past Kristen Stewart being, well Kristen Stewart. Which isn’t fair as it’s not really her fault that she should forever be attached to one of the worst Mary sues ever. That said, having her play the most beautiful woman in the kingdom who has men fall in insta lust with her before she leads an army into battle after no training, might not have been the best departure when it came to picking roles..

    • CaptainCalvinCat

      Don’t worry, Jo. I liked the movie, too – it was not BAAD, at least it is not that movie in which the evil queen gets Birdshit on her face.