The sets almost upstage the movie in “Snow White and the Huntsman,”
and even the title focuses on the two least interesting characters in
this adaptation of a classic tale.
The Dark Forest truly is drenched in death and muck, with twisted,
menacing dead trees, looking like a place where creatures that
embrace the grim aspects of life might find refuge. The Sanctuary is
a magic place of fairies and butterflies and cute furry critters and
even the tortoises look lively and energetic.
Through these extreme environments roam Snow White and the huntsman,
just barely out of the reach of evil Queen Ravenna’s posse, led by
her brother Finn.
Ravenna’s objectives in life center around her vanity, doing the
“mirror, mirror on the wall” routine, exploiting a spell that keeps
her young as long as she sucks the youth out of other women, and
maintaining power over people. Playing Ravenna with hammy zest is
Charlize Theron, and some viewers have noted that her performance is
over-the-top as she struts around, snarls and rules with a cruel
hand. In a movie like this, it’s OK to get a little campy. It is,
after all, a fantasy.
Her counterpart is Snow White, played by Kristen Stewart.
Physically, she is perfect as the beautiful princess with a pure
heart and eternal innocence, but beyond that the screenplay, a
collaboration of Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock (“The Blind Side”)
and Hossein Amini (“Drive”) injects very little personality into the
character. As heir to the throne she shows no spunk or royal
qualities and even she wonders aloud how she can lead men.
Snow White is imprisoned as a child after Ravenna successfully wins
the love of Snow White’s recently widowed father, King Magnus,
murders him and leads a coup d’etat over the kingdom. The princess
manages to escape just when Ravenna learns she must cut out Snow
White’s heart to ensure her immortality. The princess flees to the
Dark Forest, forcing Ravenna to contract out The Hunstman (Chris
Hemsworth) to find and capture her.
The Huntsman is a standard issue reluctant hero — mourning the
death of his wife, he is a drunk with no ambition, willing to absorb
abuse. He more or less agrees to go after Snow White although he has
doubts that Ravenna, who promises to bring back his wife from death,
will live up to her end of the deal.
It is of no surprise that when The Huntsman catches Snow White, he
reneges on the agreement and sides with the princess.
Managing to get through the Dark Forest, Snow White and The Hunstman
soon encounter a band of dwarfs, finally bringing in some lively
characters to the story. These guys are not the Disney variety of the
dwarfs, with cute little nicknames. They are grungy and wary and
As an aside, the dwarfs are played by some non-dwarf actors like Ray
Winstone, Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Eddie Marsan and Toby Jones.
These are not tall people by any means, but some incredible computer
effects had to be employed to make them look even shorter.
Stewart’s Snow White spends about two-thirds of the movie fleeing
for her life as arrows fly and swords clang in violent interaction.
Meanwhile, The Huntsman takes his lumps serving as her protector and
trying to lead her to Duke Hammond’s fortress.
Ravenna uses deception to get Snow White to eat the
poisoned apple. Here the tale has to be adjusted. There is no
wandering prince to conveniently stop by, plant a kiss on the prone
Snow White and get her back on her feet. The only available
candidates to perform this duty are The Huntsman and Duke Hammond’s
son William (Sam Claflin), who has loved Snow White since childhood.
Both do kiss her, but it will not be revealed here whose kiss works
A revived Snow White is finally motivated to psyche up the exiled
duke’s army to ride valiantly back and reclaim the kingdom. Even
then, the final confrontation between Snow White and Ravenna lacks
much punch. And for crying out loud, the coronation of Snow White as
the rightful queen has all the excitement of something that would
even be too boring for C-SPAN.
“Chernobyl Diaries” not an endorsement of extreme tourism
“Chernobyl Diaries” is another story of group non-think — confirming
that the more heads that get together the more likely something
stupid will be done.
In the horror film genre it has been demonstrated that it is a bad
idea for party-minded young people to take up temporary residence in
a remote cabin in the woods, especially if there is a local legend
regarding multiple murders and/or psychotic hermits. Now, thanks to
Oren Peli, who scared the heck out of us via “Paranormal Activity,”
another bad idea has been presented.
It is called extreme tourism, wherein customers sign up to take a
day trip to some site that rational people would avoid. This kind of
service attracts those who would otherwise be trying to do skateboard
stunts, taking half-gainers off cliffs into shallow water, trying out
for NASCAR and such.
In “Chernobyl Diaries,” the person drawn to an extreme tour is Paul
(Jason Sadowski), a fellow who for whatever reasons has left America
and is taking up residence in Kiev. There he is joined by younger
brother Chris (Jesse McCartney), who has been traveling Europe with
his girlfriend Natalie (Olivia Taylor Dudley) and her best friend
Amanda (Devin Kelley), who has just ended a relationship. Chris plans
to propose to Natalie when they get to Moscow.
But first, Paul has this grand idea. Because the screenplay drops
hints that Paul has a history of making mistakes, the inclination
already is to have a bad feeling about this. Paul says that he has
met a guy named — what else — Yuri (Dimitri Diatchenko) who runs a
unique extreme tourism business and is offering a tour of the city of
Pripyat where the workers of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant
Chernobyl, of course, is the icon of nuclear disasters. In April
1986, one of the reactors blew, contaminating the area with radiation
that forced the immediate evacuation of Pripyat. It became a ghost
town, its residents having to flee without most of their possessions.
Chris is apprehensive about Paul’s idea, knowing his big brother has
not been a pillar of good judgment, but Natalie and Amanda are
intrigued by the idea. So off they go to meet Yuri. There they are
joined by a backpacking couple, Zoe and Michael (Ingrid Bolso Berdal
and Nathan Phillips).
Yuri is a small-businessman in the truest form. He is his company’s
lone employee. His tour bus is an old van. Despite these red flags,
the six young people gamely get into the vehicle and rumble to Pripyat.
More bad vibes occur when the van encounters guard at a checkpoint
and is turned away because of “maintenance” at Pripyat. Chris,
seemingly the only one in the group with a functioning brain, wonders
aloud why there would be maintenance in an abandoned city. Undaunted,
Yuri changes course and gains access to Pripyat via a backroads route.
The screenplay by Shane Van Dyke and Carey Van Dyke in addition to
Peli breaks down at this point, failing to build on any suspense or
tension. The tour of the abandoned city, with the exception of one
jump-in-your-seat jolt, commences without incident. In the previews a
scene was shown in which Amanda, taking a closer look at a photo she
took of one of the apartment buildings, sees what looks like a figure
in the window of the supposedly abandoned complex. For whatever
reasons, the scene was trimmed down and by time it appears it is too
little too late.
The first indication that something creepy is taking place is when
the group loads up in the van post-tour only to discover it has been
sabotaged and will not start.
From this point, “Chernobyl Diaries” takes on a zombie movie aura
as cast depletion begins in earnest. The viewers never get a good
look at whatever is hunting down the group, because most of the
action takes place at night with the young people armed only with
flashlights. In one inexplicable scene, the people encounter a girl
standing frozen, facing the other way, but within seconds another of
the group is snatched and the mystery girl is never seen again.
Overall, the chill factor in “Chernobyl Diaries” is low. Peli and
the Van Dykes continually let opportunities for anxiety and suspense
to slip by. When the movie gets into the final act of people running
for their lives, it just becomes a matter of trying to guess who will be
the next to die and not be able to collect a refund from Yuri.