I caught this at a preview screening (reviews were embargoed until today) and honestly, I’m still amazed at two things: one, that this movie ever got made, and two, that it didn’t get smacked with an R-rating. It’s a surprisingly dark and mature horror fantasy that’s willing to gross out the audience to get its point across, and the director makes a couple of gutsy choices that elevate the material quite a bit.
If only Kristen Stewart weren’t in it, it’d actually be a great fantasy film.
I don’t want to give too much away, but this movie is worth seeing for a lot of reasons. First and foremost, because it’s actually a surprisingly good approximation of just how nasty and horrible old folktales happen to be. There are moments in this movie that are genuinely disturbing, and also well-played moments of fantasy. Among other things, the creature design really is pretty dynamic and interesting, and the art team deserves kudos for what was obviously a ton of work.
And, Stewart aside, the cast is great. Charlize Theron chews the scenery to just the right degree as an evil Queen, Chris Hemsworth has charisma to spare, and the dwarves include Nick Frost, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone and Ian McShane. Nobody was collecting a paycheck here, with one exception.
The problem, as you may have guessed, is that Stewart is not only miscast, she can’t be bothered to even care, and it drags down the whole thing. First of all, she doesn’t look like a sword-wielding Joan-of-Arc badass; you wonder if the evil Queen didn’t snack on her youthful vigor a bit before trying to finish the whole thing. Secondly, she can’t be bothered to try and act to cover for it, either; miscast actors don’t have to drag down a movie. The result is the entire cast, somewhat resentfully, carrying the movie and trying to fill this big heroine-shaped hole in it.
In short, it’s interesting, and if they’d cast someone else as the lead, it would have been great. As it is, if you’re in the mood for a fantasy movie, you could do worse.