It seemed a lot of the pre-release complaints surrounding Snow White and the Huntsman were aimed at the casting of Kristen Stewart as the “fairest of them all”. While that role did turn out to be a miscasting, people forgot to even worry about the fact that a rookie director was at the helm of the film. Commercial director Rupert Sanders completely sinks this film. No matter how many great actors, phenomenal set pieces and gorgeous costumes are in this film, it can’t compensate for Sanders’ lack of talent.
Snow White and the Huntsman is a darker take on the Snow White tale and mainly focuses on the relationship between Kristen Stewart’s Snow White and Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman. The script is written by an odd group of writers including newbie Evan Daugherty, The Blind Side’s John Lee Hancock and Drive’s Hossein Amini. Here is where the problem of the film starts. The script is pretty lackluster (to the point of near non-existence). This should be of no surprise considering the most acclaimed of these screenwriters (Hossein Amini) wrote Drive. Drive is a good film but it completely succeeded on the direction of Nicolas Winding Refn. The screenplay was once again near non-existent in that film.
If you give a script like this and a budget of $170 million (a moronic decision by Universal from a creative standpoint) to a rookie director you are most likely going to end up with an epic disaster. Rupert Sanders does not disappoint in that aspect. Sanders was clearly never taught the word subtlety because there is none of it here. While a really over-the-top style can work, it only can with style (like early Tim Burton films or Danny Boyle’s films to name a few). Sanders has no style. He just throws in imagery for no reason at all. Never is this more evident than in the film’s climatic battle which displays a bunch of cool images but is paid off with an anti-climatic fight scene.
Of course excessive imagery was not enough for Sanders, he had to coach every actor into an overblown performance. That is a real shame because this is a pretty talented cast. Charlize Theron has been the main selling point of the film for non-Twihards, and when she is allowed to play “ice-cold” she is brilliant. However, when Sanders instructs her to start screaming and doing embarrassingly exaggerated antics, even she crumbles over the silliness of it all. Kristen Stewart never really suffers from Sanders’ direction but as a character that is “fairer” than Charlize Theron, she is severely miscast. I will say that this is a nice change of direction from most of her previous work, so Stewart’s performance isn’t entirely a waste. The only other actors in the cast that leave an impression are Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman and the actors who play the dwarves. Hemsworth continues to prove that he is one of Hollywood’s best action stars and the dwarves are expertly played by a group of top-notch character actors (such as Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones and Ray Winstone).
Considering Universal spent so much money on this film, it is odd that they didn’t go after a better director because if it wasn’t for Rupert Sanders this was a film that could have reached its potential.