Snow White And The Huntsman is the classic tale of Snow White given the full-on Lord Of The Rings treatment.
Director Rupert Sanders was clearly taking lessons from Peter Jackson with his presentation of a fully-developed fantasy world.
Unfortunately, for all its sumptuous production values, the script by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini is quite flawed - the pacing is rather measured, to put it politely (most would call it slow), the magic mirror (a key element of the story and a great special effect) is forgotten about a third of the way into the story, and the central characters of the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and Snow's childhood sweetheart, William (Sam Claflin) both serve the same role in the movie. This duplication of roles is further highlighted by the script's failure to resolve either character's personal journey.
And all that brings us to Snow White herself. Kristen Stewart may have the whole Twilight thing under her belt and is reasonably easy on the eye, but she is totally devoid of charisma - this is never more evident than in her "rousing speech" to her father's subjects hiding out in the castle of Duke Hammond (Vincent Regan). She is supposedly whipping them up into a frenzy of rebellion against the evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), but totally fails to sell it. I couldn't imagine an army following her to the supermarket let alone into battle against a powerful, magical foe.
That said, the film gave us a well thought-out back story of how the witch Ravenna usurped Snow White's father and took over the kingdom - even if we are supposed to believe that for the decade (or longer) that Snow was kept imprisoned, the lone rebel Duke Hammond - father of William - was able to hold out against the queen and her mastery of the dark arts.
When she comes of age (and thus the queen is no longer "the fairest in the land"), Snow escapes captivity and flees into the well-realised Dark Forest.
Ravenna summons The Huntsman to track Snow down, on the promise that she will bring his dead wife back to life if he delivers. Realising that the queen's offer is an empty one, the Huntsman instead helps Snow to escape the forest and head towards Duke Hammond's castle.
On the way they are captured by the seven dwarf bandits - who count a number of famous faces amongst them: such as Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost and Toby Jones.
And the dwarves are another strength of the film. Once you get over the initial shock of seeing such well-known faces on the bodies of little people, they are wholly convincing and wouldn't look out of place around the table at Bag End when Thorin and co pay a visit to Bilbo Baggins.
The dwarves then escort Snow and the Huntsman to their final destination, and play an integral part in the princess's scheme to get her kingdom back and avenge her father's death.
But of course the stand-out performance of the piece is Charlize Theron as the evil queen, who not only acts Kristen Stewart out of the picture but looks every inch the majestic evil sovereign, whatever make-up effects are piled on her to show the ageing cost of her magic.
There are even, early on, strong suggestions of an incestuous, Game Of Thrones-style relationship between Ravenna and her (twin?) brother Finn (Sam Spruell), but this, ultimately, being a children's movie that particular sub-plot also goes nowhere - although there is definitely a link of some kind between them as demonstrated when the Huntsman slays Finn.
Stylistically Snow White And The Huntsman is the most impressive Snow White movie of this week's mini-marathon, but the script has serious, basic issues that really should have been picked up during the film's development.
FAIREST OF THEM ALL:
Evil Queen: 3 Snow White: 0
(The Evil Queens win the day!)
Seventh Level, Black Magic
The sorceress can use this powerful ritual to conjure an army of 1,000 faceless knights (per level), clad in full plate mail and armed with vicious-looking swords. However, these summoned entities fight only as 1 HD creatures and crumble into fragments with a single hit. They also only last 20 minutes per level of the spellcaster, after which time they dissolve into dust.
Fourth Level, Black Magic
By touch, the witch is able to drain the youth from her target and absorb it (in part) into her self to restore her own youth. The victim will age 2d10 years and the spellcaster will have 25 per cent of that age restored to her (ie. she will get younger). However, using this spell just once sets in place a chain of magical cause-and-effect that makes the witch age one month for every spell level she casts from then on (e.g. a sixth level spell will age her six months). This spell only works for, and on, humans and halflings and has no effect on monsters, elves, dwarves, elemental creatures, familiars etc etc.
Wings Of Freedom
Fifth Level, Grey Magic
The witch casts this spell when she is in a secure location, such as her home, and it remains in operation until she is struck in combat and feels threatened. Then her body dissolves into a flock of ravens who spiral into the sky and head back to where the spell was cast. The birds then fall to the floor, dissolving into an oily mass from which the witch can crawl, safe and sound. Although it doesn't penetrate The Shroud (see Crypts & Things, page 62), a sorceress transported home in this manner is required to make an immediate Sanity roll.