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Snow White and the Huntsman is probably more famous now for sparking the Affair That Broke Twilight Nation, thanks to Kristen Stewart's admission this summer that she was carousing with director Rupert Sanders. But with the movie now out on Blu-ray and DVD, after a pretty mammoth global box office haul of $396 million, is it time to start considering the movie on its own merits again?
I reviewed Snow White and the Huntsman when it opened in theaters in June, and I ragged on it for taking place in "a world that's all surface sheen and no logic or stakes." It didn't get any better on a second viewing, or with an additional four minutes added to the "Extended Edition" that made no difference, so far as I can tell. It's still fundamentally a movie more interested in its visuals-- which, to be fair, are occasionally very impressive-- than its story, which updates the Snow White fairy tale without improving it a bit.
As Snow White, who we're told over and over again is "special" and "the one," Kristen Stewart doesn't provide a lot of evidence for that claim, but she's at least more comfortable on-camera than she appears in the Twilight movies, probably because she gets to ride horses and run through the forest instead of mooning after a boy the whole time. And she strikes up a pretty good chemistry with Chris Hemsworth, who plays the gruff Huntsman at first in charge of hunting her down in the forest after she escapes the tower where the wicked queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) has had her imprisoned since childhood. The Huntsman, a grieving widower, eventually teams up with Snow White to guide her safely through the forest and lead the rebellion against Ravenna, and though the sparks of romance between the two title characters are subtle, they feel very real-- especially when Snow White's childhood flame William (Sam Claflin) joins their band of rebels.
But that potentially rich love triangle is badly mishandled by the script, as are pretty much all of the other interesting relationships in the film, and the entire character of Ravenna, who spends most of the film fuming in the castle in a series of fabulous dresses that outshine her. We spend what feels like forever wandering through the forest with our two heroes, and though they occasionally run into some interesting distractions-- like a village full of women who have scarred themselves to keep from being Ravenna's targets-- the plot loops in circles instead of taking us anywhere. When the final battle arrives, it feels over before it started, essentially some people riding horses on a beach and then a few clanging swords. For all the money clearly spent on the movie's effects, the film is weirdly skimpy in the parts where it counts.
Those visuals might be the one reason to get drawn into the film on Blu-ray, since you can fast-forward through the dull scenes and maybe not realize that the endless shots of the spooky forest don't actually serve a function to the story. But clocking in at over two hours, Snow White and the Huntsman is a whole lot of dull to sit through for the pretty parts.
Like many releases of current films, the Snow White and the Huntsman comes crammed with a ton of extra ways to watch its content, including the fairly nifty Second Screen that uses the Pocket Blu app to pull up bonus content on your iPad while the film streams on your TV. There's a digital copy and DVD included in the case, and also the option to use Ultraviolet to upload it to the cloud-- if you can put up with that system's tendency to crash, which I've never been able to deal with.
The Blu-ray exclusive features focus, of course, on the behind-the-scenes action in making the film, which is pretty extensive and interesting if you like picking apart fantasy worlds like this and figuring out what it actually looked like in real life. You can see Kristen Stewart taking a bunch of falls that a stuntwoman might ordinarily do, Charlize Theron skulking around in the castle, and of course the green screens that fill out the backdrops of real sets before the CGI stepped in. One in particular, "The Magic of Snow White and the Huntsman," digs deep into technical effects like the motion-capture used to create the troll and the fairies-- fun stuff for movie tech nerds, even if you're not that into the movie.
Featured on both the DVD and the Blu-ray is a commentary from director Sanders effects supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and editor Neil Smith, which gives you a kind of real-time insight into the technical process behind making the film. It's not as whiz-bang nifty as the features playing on your iPad using the Second Screen feature, but just as informative at times. With the actors largely repeating the standard "We had such a good time making this movie!" lines, it's the technical people you really want to hear from-- and in such a big movie, they have a whole lot to discuss.
If it's the elaborate fantasy world of Snow White and the Huntsman that drew you in, the Blu-ray features are worth digging through to answer that age-old movie magic question of "How did they do that?" If you're looking for insight into the story or the actors, though, you can probably find way more in the tabloids.
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