But ideas in Hollywood never seem to travel alone, so 2012 sees two new versions of the centuries-old story.
Julia Roberts played the evil queen earlier this year in the mildly entertaining "Mirror Mirror." That overly didactic comedy was proudly revisionist. So is "Snow White and the Huntsman." Fortunately, that's about the only thing these two films adapting the same source material have in common.
|'Snow White and The Huntsman'|
|3 out of 4 stars|
|Stars: Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron|
|Director: Rupert Sanders|
|Rated: PG-13 for intense sequences of violence and action, and brief sensuality|
|Running time: 127 minutes|
"Snow White and the Huntsman" is, quite simply, the more inspired of the two. "Mirror Mirror" garnered easy laughs by playing with overly familiar tropes. "Snow White" takes the bare bones of the tale we all know and reimagines a backstory to it that might be more intriguing than that of the original.
The evil queen, Snow White's stepmother, is here motivated by more than pure greed. Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is an abject lesson in the line "Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned." She doesn't collect kingdoms for their gold, but rather to punish their kings, in repayment of some debt incurred by an indifferent man in Ravenna's past.
The writing of this psychological morality tale is superb. Little is left unexplained.
Ravenna keeps Snow White (Kristen Stewart) alive because she needs the adult princess: She gets her ageless beauty and terrible power by sucking the life out of beautiful young women. A haunting scene comes later when Snow stumbles upon a village of women who have purposely scarred their own and their daughters' faces to ensure the queen takes no interest in them.
Discovering her life is in danger, Snow makes a daring escape from the castle to the Dark Forest. But even the queen's hardy men can't navigate the wood's mysteries. So Ravenna hires the huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to fetch her. Instead, of course, he's captivated by her -- as are the fairies of the forest and the dwarves that also dwell there.
The acting is acceptable but not spectacular. Hemsworth, who's also on screen now as Thor in the massive hit "The Avengers," is engrossing enough as the brooding, handsome huntsman. Stewart, best known as the star of the "Twilight" franchise, shows off some additional skills here: This "Snow White" is as much an action film as a drama about the perils of sexual power.
Some critics have compared "Snow White" to the "Twilight" films, but I don't see the likeness. With its avenging, warlike heroine, this movie is more like this year's other big blockbuster, "The Hunger Games." Or, toward the end, as a reborn Snow leads an entire army into battle, like another timeless tale, that of Joan of Arc.