The hunger for fairy tales never wanes, it seems – this is the second riff on Snow White in as many months, following April's hapless Mirror Mirror – but appetites refine, and Snow White and the Huntsman – ambitious, brutish, ruthlessly unromantic – has the right idea casting its heroine as a Joan of Arc-type crusader and its evil queen a dissertation (albeit first draft) on beauty as the most direct path to power for the disenfranchised female.
A quick preamble establishes what we already know from Uncle Walt's work: Snow White, pure of heart and boundless in beauty, loses her mother to sickness first, then her father to a usurper to the crown. Here, in a script credited to Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock, and Hossein Amini, the conniver is Ravenna (Theron, suitably ravenous), who commands (with wile to burn) a dark army to install her in the castle. Contrary to the blinkered-evil concomitant to most dramatizations of Snow White's foil, Ravenna has a backstory that plays to modern-day cravings for a psychologically rich villainy, which Theron milks to sympathetic effect. Yep, she sucks the lifeblood from luminous youths and dips, Countess Báthory-like, in restorative baths (one of countless visuals from first-time director Rupert Sanders that catches in the throat), but she's chafing still from early wounds, her survival bound, without her consent, to black magic. On the advice of her mirror, ever forthright when it comes to survival of the prettiest, Ravenna wants Snow White's heart on a dinner platter – especially when the princess comes of age as comely Kristen Stewart – but she's thwarted when Snow White shows a proto-warrior's cunning and flees the castle keep.
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