The newest badass fantasy flick to hit theaters is Snow White and the Huntsman, out today, and I believe it proves my theory that Kristen Stewart is the Keanu Reeves of her generation. It also proves a few other things, like the fact that you can still have an awesome time watching an unapologetically cheesy movie full of fairy bunnies and scenery-chewing witches. For all its flaws — and there are more of them than in Charlize "Evil Queen" Theron's magically aged face — Snow White delivers exactly what you expect from a fairy tale. And more. Mild spoilers ahead.
Reimagining Snow White has become something of a national pastime in the States over the past year, with Mirror, Mirror coming out in theaters a few months ago and Once Upon a Time doing quite well on television. Like its predecessors, this Snow White hits on all the plot points you expect from the story: There's the evil queen, played with histrionic amazingness by Charlize Theron (watch her pop bird hearts between her lips like they were bonbons!), the stern/brave/good-hearted Snow White (KStew nails it), and a whole bunch of optional secondary characters to help/hinder Snow White's quest to retake the throne. Probably the biggest mistake director Rupert Sanders made was in trying to include all those characters, plus a few more just to build out Snow White's world a lot more than you've ever seen.
In this version of Snow White, our hero watches as her mother dies and her father's heart is won by the duplicitous Ravenna (AKA the evil queen). Hissing that men only want to use women, Ravenna murders the kind old King in their marriage bed, and promptly banishes Snow White to a tower prison. Despite lack of exercise and some rapey attention from Ravenna's brother/lover Finn, Snow White grows up into a tough, canny ninja who fights her way out of the prison the first chance she gets. This Snow White fights with swords — and her nemesis Ravenna fights back with blood-slicked magic. With few lines but a lot of convincingly heroic facial expressions, Kristen Stewart does a great job channeling Keanu Reeves in The Matrix (one of the dwarfs even calls her "the one"!). Hate on KStew all you want, but she's perfect for roles like this.
When Snow White escapes into the woods, Ravenna sends Finn and the Huntsman after her. Played by Chris Hemsworth, the formerly-good-now-drunk Huntsman's character gets a little too much backstory — but only because we also get backstory on everybody, including Snow White's handsome prince cousin, Ravenna herself (traumatized child! of course!), and even the dwarfs. Still, it's fun to watch Snow White win over her followers, from the Huntsman to the dwarfs and finally her future subjects. This is the kind of quest story that you'd normally expect in an Arthurian legend. Snow White proves herself by demonstrating her bravery and strength of purpose — not by singing with the bunnies and washing the dwarfs' dishes. There are plenty of fights, gory witch noms, and exciting escapes, though these scenes feel like a kind of sanitized version of Game of Thrones, without the guts and ragged emotional edginess.
Instead of going full goth, this Snow White improbably offers an homage to the cuteness of the classic Disney cartoon. There's a scene where Snow White and the foul-mouthed dwarfs (led with stunt casting aplomb by Ian McShane) hide out in a fairy forest, which is what I can only call ironically cute. Yes, there are teeny sparkly fairies riding on bunnies and badgers, and they work. Weird little touches like this really enhance the worldbuilding here, along with another scene, in a village where women hide from the Queen's hunger for beauties by scarring their faces. This movie is a lot more than a cheesefest, though admittedly it's got some seriously cheesy bits. Like, you know, dwarf singing and a laughably incomprehensible "rousing the troops" speech from Snow White.
But the time we reach the inevitable Final Boss battle between Snow White and Ravenna, you'll feel like you've gotten a tantalizing glimpse of fairy tales of the future, where women fight with swords and the handsome prince doesn't have to marry anybody at the end. Yes, the movie is uneven and many things are left unexplained (or, worse, overexplained), but goofy fun is still fun.