A version of this review appeared in The Age, June 21, 2012.
Believe it or not, the latest reworking of Snow White is even more muddled than the recent rival production Mirror Mirror. Directed by the first-timer Rupert Sanders – an Englishman with a background in advertising – the film starts off trying to be edgy and Gothic, shifts gears into sickly sweet psychedelia, and ends with a noisy battle sequence just in time to save us from falling asleep.
Miscast as the long-suffering heroine, Kristen Stewart seems even more tense than usual – as well she might, given the impossibility of making sense of her character's transition from helpless victim to dauntless warrior. As the burly huntsman who becomes her protector, Chris Hemsworth speaks in a ludicrous Scottish accent and has little to do aside from looking supportive in reaction shots. The dwarfs are played by regular-sized ''name'' actors such as Bob Hoskins and Ray Winstone, none of them given much chance to prove their worth; sometimes they're cut down to size by digital means, but more often Sanders resorts to the cheaper trick of not framing their legs.
As always in this story, the wicked queen is the real star turn. Charlize Theron glares madly, alternately whispers and bellows, and generally seems ready to sprout tentacles at any moment. Though she's rarely scary and has no interest in being funny, the stilted script does provide her with some memorable camp lines: ''I'll give this wretched world the queen it deserves!''