Hollywood has served up two adaptations of the Brothers Grimm tale Snow White this year; Mirror, Mirror with Julia Roberts and Lily Collins, and now Snow White and the Huntsman starring Charlize Theron and Twilight's Kristen Stewart.
If you're concerned about fairy tale fatigue you can relax, these films take very different approaches to their re-imaging of the age-old tale. Mirror Mirror offered a cheeky, fun and family friendly version of events, while Snow White and the Huntsman sees Alice in Wonderland producer Joe Roth and first time feature director Rupert Sanders (who made a name for himself making television commercials for products like Halo 3) take a more inventive and ambitious approach.
Driven by stunning visual effects, it's a gritty and gothic version of the battle between good and evil, with a touch of 21st century girl-power thrown in. The themes and plot points are recognisable, but this is Snow White's journey to escape her evil stepmother Queen Ravenna (Theron) and return her father's lands from darkness as more stylised war epic than fairy tale; it's a muddy and violent crusade through bleak landscapes and mysterious forests.
Sanders is clearly talented and has an eye for creating a "vision", but he's almost taken it too far. Dark and sombre, it's a gloomy first hour that only lightens when the dwarfs (a who's-who of British acting talent) and their gentle humour are finally introduced and we reach the magical and exquisitely designed world of the fairies. Even then, it's not quite enough to lift the tone.
Kristen Stewart brings a contemporary edge to Snow White, delivering a simple, underplayed performance, and she works well alongside Thor's Chris Hemsworth in the title role of the Huntsman, who is sent to capture her but instead offers protection.
Stewart doesn't fare so well when in the room with Theron who, possibly inspired by her character's greed for power and immortality, refuses to allow anyone to outshine her. This works at times but otherwise comes across as a case of slightly embarrassing over-acting.
Visually this is a classy film and the production design, special effects and costumes are simply fabulous. But, no matter how beautiful and well cast this is, Snow White and the Huntsman is a strangely soulless film. Overly long and slow-moving, it's serious and ponderous from the get go, and doesn't really change gear until its underwhelming climax.
Cast: Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth
Director: Rupert Sanders
Running time: 127 mins
Rating: M (Fantasy violence)
Verdict: Visually stunning but ponderous drama