The Huntsman Saga
Snow White and the Huntsman (May 31/12)
The second film this year to be adapted from the infamous Brothers Grimm fable (after Mirror Mirror), Snow White and the Huntsman follows Kristen Stewart's Snow White as she escapes from the clutches of her evil stepmother (Charlize Theron's Ravenna) and absconds into a nearby mystical forest - with the film subsequently detailing Snow's efforts at evading Ravenna's soldiers and her eventual partnership with a grieving huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and seven scrappy dwarves (including Nick Frost's Nion, Ray Winstone's Gort, and Bob Hoskins' Muir). It's clear almost immediately that Snow White and the Huntsman bears little in common with its Tarsem-directed predecessor, as the movie has been infused with an impressively (and consistently) epic sensibility that is, without question, a far cry from the lighthearted, cartoonish vibe of the earlier film. And while there's certainly plenty here worth admiring - eg the movie has, for example, been peppered with a number of undeniably striking images - Snow White and the Huntsman's success is consistently thwarted by both a meandering storyline and a seriously overlong running time. It is, as a result, virtually impossible to comfortably embrace the episodic narrative, as scripters Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini offer up a midsection that boasts as many lulls as it does captivating stretches. (There's little doubt that such concerns are compounded by Rupert Sanders' questionable directorial choices, with, for example, the pervasively jittery camerawork draining the excitement out of the film's myriad of action sequences). In terms of the film's cast, Hemsworth delivers a dynamic, charismatic performance that stands in sharp contrast to Stewart's unconvincing and bland turn as the title character (ie it's impossible to buy Snow White's transformation from helpless victim into fierce warrior). By the time the action-packed yet fairly interminable climax rolls around, Snow White and the Huntsman has established itself as a failure - an ambitious failure, to be sure, but a failure nonetheless - that ultimately stands as the lesser of 2012's two Snow White adaptations.
The Huntsman: Winter's War
A prequel and sequel to 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman, The Huntsman: Winter's War follows Chris Hemsworth's title character as he embarks on a quest to stop an evil queen (Emily Blunt's Freya) from dominating the entire world with her deadly powers. There's little doubt that The Huntsman: Winter's War spends much of its often interminable runtime attempting to justify its very existence, as the film, which has contractual obligation written all over it, is almost entirely lacking in a cohesive story or forward momentum - with the pervasively sluggish atmosphere compounded by an episodic narrative that consists of one overlong, needless sequence after another. Screenwriters Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin employ a series of eye-rollingly misguided story beats to pad out the proceedings, with, especially, a silly misunderstanding between former lovers standing out as one of the worst offenders of this. The less-than-engrossing atmosphere is perpetuated by a repetitive road-trip structure that's as uneven and erratic as one could possibly envision, while the heavy accents among the myriad of actors make it difficult to completely discern about half of the movie's dialogue. (It's a shame, really, given that Hemsworth is his usual charming self here.) And, not surprisingly, The Huntsman: Winter's War closes with a CGI-heavy stretch that cements its place as a thoroughly worthless followup, which, one can only hope, spells the end of Universal Pictures' misbegotten attempt at reinventing Snow White as an "edgy" property.