At the Movies: Darker ‘Snow White’ is still pretty mild

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Andy Bockelman is a member of the Denver Film Critics Society, and his movie reviews appear in Explore Steamboat and the Craig Daily Press.

“Snow White & the Huntsman”

2.5 out of 4 stars

127 minutes

Starring: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth and Sam Claflin.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas in Steamboat Springs.

If you feel like you’ve already seen the fantasy “Snow White & the Huntsman,” that’s no shock, considering every fairy tale has hit the big screen in one form or another throughout the history of cinema.

With this particular princess story, your last viewing may have been a little more recent, so which of the pair is the fairest of them all?

In a far-off kingdom where the people are still mourning the loss of their beloved queen (Liberty Ross), things are looking up when the grief-stricken king (Noah Huntley) rescues a comely woman named Ravenna (Charlize Theron) from an evil militia and takes her as his new bride.

On their wedding night, Ravenna wastes no time revealing her true self, murdering her new husband and taking over everything in his stead, including keeping his daughter (Kristen Stewart) Snow White under lock and key.

With the land in despair, the princess knows nothing beyond imprisonment in a tower and has little hope for any better treatment from the cruel new woman on the throne.

Ravenna’s lust for power comes to its apex when she learns of an enchantment that will keep her immortal: to eat the beating heart of the most pure, innocent and beautiful girl in the kingdom — namely, her stepdaughter.

With no other options, Snow White escapes only to be forced to brave the dangers of the Dark Forest and an expert tracker (Chris Hemsworth) hired by Ravenna to bring her back to the castle alive.

It’s funny how Stewart manages to be polarizing in nearly every part she plays, but this character has even more history built into her than Bella Swan.

It’s purely a matter of opinion as to whether you think she possesses the vibrancy and spirit of a rose blooming in the middle of winter — the inspiration for her name in this reiteration — but the “Twilight” actress brings the necessary gravitas to Snow White once she matures into a rebel leader, speaking a monologue that may as well be out of “Henry V.”

The younger girl of this story may have the title role, but Theron’s truly terrifying air hangs over every moment even when she’s not onscreen, making her the star of all our nightmares. But, Ravenna’s eternal youth and loveliness comes at a considerable price, as she relies on draining the life force of a stock of girls in her dungeon and sending them back withered old crones.

Can we really blame her for wanting to chow down on a single chest-pumper and end the exhaustive beauty treatments?

A muddy, muscular Hemsworth puts down his hammer as Thor and picks up an assortment of axes as the sorrowful huntsman who has no interest in the queen’s agenda and needs little convincing to protect his former prey, eventually banding with a group of dwarves who see the princess as the last chance for their world to survive.

With the same effects that gave us Gimli of “The Lord of the Rings,” Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Nick Frost, Toby Jones, Eddie Marsan, Johnny Harris, Ray Winstone and Brian Gleeson portray the gnarled little people here, and if you’re counting, yes, that’s a different number of dwarves than you’re used to seeing, but there will be an adjustment before too long.

Besides the size of the men putting on those tiny boots, there are a few differences between this and the earlier 2012 Snow White release “Mirror Mirror,” most conspicuously with the villainess.

Theron beats Julia Roberts hands down with a woman whose wickedness has many levels, cursed to live the way she does but still enjoying her prominence too much to give it a second thought, as opposed to Roberts’ one-dimensional meanie queenie.

The whole universe here has much more grime and blackness than you’d usually see in a fairy tale, though it stops short of being all that intense below the surface.

A few magical creatures tossed into the mix make it more visually appealing, but it’s too bad debuting feature director Rupert Sanders couldn’t find a happy medium between the traditional cautionary morals and dreariness of fairy tales in their earliest days and the bright, sunny “happy endings” style demanded today.

If you’re wondering if you’ll prefer “Snow White & the Huntsman” to “Mirror Mirror,” honestly, you’ll barely notice the difference. Both have a young female lead who’s easily overshadowed by a more prominent actress and both make magic, good or evil, seem like a great big hassle.

Once the two of them are both released on DVD, just play them on opposing TVs and see how much of a mirror image you get.

Now playing at West Theatre in Craig and Metropolitan Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas in Steamboat Springs.

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