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Snow White and the Huntsman (Blu-ray)
Universal Studios / 2012 / 128 Minutes / Rated PG-13
Street Date: September 11, 2012
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- List Price: $22.98
- Amazon Price: $17.99 (22%)
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Reviewed by M. Enois Duarte
Sunday, August 26, 2012
In 'Snow White & the Huntsman,' Kristen Stewart tries to show audiences there's more to her than breathless swooning over glittery vampires. And perhaps, a revisionist take on the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale is the perfect vehicle, playing a modern heroine who grows from prisoner and survivalist to leader and warrior. The film is likely to attract the crowd devoted to Bella's pursuit of eternal love from the undead, while the dark, gothic atmospherics of the stage design and the adult themes from a script that took three writers to complete will appeal to older viewers. For the most apart, the tactic works, as Rupert Sanders, making his feature-length debut, dazzles with startling, astonishing imagery and a thrilling pace which has us overlooking any other failings with the production.
Unfortunately, Stewart proves there actually is little more to her acting range, standing out amongst a stronger and much more talented company of actors. It seems obvious from the small amount of dialogue she's given compared to the rest of the cast, which sometimes feels weirdly off-balanced during conversations with others, her presence is a deliberate choice to draw a specific demographic. The few times she speaks more than a couple sentences, an unconvincing performance of an iconic literary figure of folk legend is exposed, along with a dreadful British accent. Granted, she does well enough and carries her own weight, but she's the one bitter note in an otherwise superbly sweet film.
This is also problematic in a plot with heavy feminist undertones, which is a marvelous interpretive touch to a tale that usually has the heroine playing second-fiddle to a male-dominated environment. Stewart's Snow White is not one who needs saving, although the first half of the film would have us believe so. She, in fact, does the saving, both for her kingdom and the soul of her love-interest, played terrifically by Chris Hemsworth, adding another great twist to our familiarity of the original story. A philosophical dilemma arises as it becomes clear that men gravitate and are somehow emotionally ravished by White, yet she's continually treated as an object of desire, both physically and as the aspiration of a just, untainted ruler. But again, this has more to do with Stewart's inadequate performance than a fault in an otherwise highly-entertaining flick.
The film's wildest feat of fantasy is its attempt to convince audiences that Stewart is more attractive than Charlize Theron, or that she could ever even come close. Part of the movie's main attraction is Theron's amazing and powerful performance as Queen Ravenna. A strong and complex female presence contrasting White's inexperienced life (admittedly, because she's been locked in a dungeon for the majority of it), she's a woman embittered and frustrated by the rule of men. A few glimpses into her life do more than establish a backstory; they also reveal a human being refusing to live under the thumb of any man that would subjugate her. In turn, and possibly unintentionally so, this makes her, despite being the villain, a more fascinating character than the protagonist. This is really Theron's show and is one of many reasons which make this horror fantasy such a pleasure to watch.
Even though Kristen Stewart ultimately failed to please this grown-up, 'Snow White & the Huntsman' is still a marvel and a visual joy. Rupert Sanders worked closely with his production crew to create a darkly imaginative telling of a classic fairytale that mesmerizes and engrosses. The lush, marvelous cinematography of Greig Fraser, whose work can also be appreciated in 'Bright Star' and 'Let Me In,' is a spectacular display of a grayish-overcast tone that suddenly captives the eyes with an opulent array of primaries and rich earth tones at certain moments. Arguably, the most stunning effect is the digital CG work done to transform Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost and others into the seven dwarves. It's this sort of magic complementing the terrific performances of Theron, Hemsworth, and the dwarves which makes this one of the year's most spellbindingly enchanting and memorable surprise.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Universal Studios Home Entertainment brings 'Snow White & the Huntsman' to Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack labeled as the "Extended Edition" with a code for an UltraViolet Digital Copy. Sitting comfortably on opposing panels, the first is a Region Free, BD50 disc while the second is a DVD-9 copy of the movie.
The package includes two versions of the movie: the theatrical cut and the new 131-minute extended version. The difference between them is minimal, mostly a few extra bits of action that don't amount to anything significant. At startup, the disc commences with a few skippable trailers before switching to a menu selection with a fantasy-like theme, full-motion clips and music.
'Snow White & the Huntsman' debuts on Blu-ray with a stunning, highly-detailed 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 encode (2.35:1) with several great scenes that easily rank as demo-worthy. From beginning to end, contrast is spot-on and crisp, exposing every minute aspect with splendid clarity. Every pore and wrinkle of the cast and the texture and stitching in the costuming is exposed and appreciable. Background foliage is clear and remarkable, and definition in random architecture is striking and revealing, as every defect and blemish of wood and stone bricks is plainly visible. Colors are composed mostly of soft earth tones and a gray-overcast mood, but allows richly saturated primaries and full-bodied secondary hues to sneak though. The beautiful photography of Greig Fraser displays strong dimensionality with a terrific cinematic feel.
Minor nitpicks keeping the presentation from perfection are the several moments of softness spread throughout. Those scenes are not greatly damaging in any significant way, but made all the more apparent by the transfer's finer aspects. Black levels also could be stronger in a few respects, but for the most part, the darkest portions of the screen exhibit rich, inky blacks with strong gradations. At other times, they fall slightly flat and feel slightly dull during interior scenes with natural firelight. However, shadow details don't suffer due to this, which suggests that these trivial issues can be attributed to the cinematography. But aside from such trifling concerns, the video is beautiful and astounding.
Rupert Sanders's dark fairytale lays siege upon the home theater with a wonderfully enveloping and exciting DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack. Arrows soar overhead with seamless panning and hit enemy targets behind the listener while Ravenna's glass soldiers shatter into tiny shards that spread everywhere, filling the room with excellent directionality. Whether we're walking through the dark forest or the sanctuary woodland of fairies, subtle atmospherics keep the surrounds always active and full of life, maintaining a consistent but understated 360° soundfield that's brilliantly immersive. Action sequences, in particular, keep viewers engaged and glued to the screen, feeling as if caught within the wages of war.
Amid all this, dialogue reproduction is crisp and clear in the center, allowing for every word to be heard and better take notice of Stewart's failed attempt at a British accent. Movement across the soundstage is fluid with off-screen effects that are discrete and convincing. Imaging is broad and diverse with room-penetrating dynamics that are superbly detailed and distinct. James Newton Howard's original score benefits from this richness and clarity as each instrument is distinguishable within the orchestration and adds to the thrills by bleeding into the rears with an omnipresence that's satisfying. The lossless mix also offers a deep, impactful low-end with some surprising extension and accurate response which can rattle the walls in certain spots.
The extended cut of the film is available on both formats and the following special features are shared with the movie's day-and-date DVD release.
- Audio Commentary — Director Rupert Sanders sits down with visual-effects supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and co-editor Neil Smith to chat about the technical details behind the production. Although not thoroughly engaging, the conversation is interesting nonetheless as the men share their thoughts about the visual design and the creative decisions made. They also provide several good comments on the performances and their attraction to adapting the tale with a darker, bleaker edge.
- A New Legend is Born (HD, 21 min) — An amusing, somewhat in-depth look on the revisionism of the classic Grimm fairytale. Interviews with cast & crew talk greatly about the usual aspects of the production, but most interesting is the discussion on blending medieval history with horror fantasy.
For this Blu-ray edition of the film, Universal has put together a nice package of high-def exclusives, which includes BD-Live Functionality, My Scenes, News Ticker, pocketBLU, D-Box Motion Code, UltraViolet Digital Copy, a DVD copy and another app called Second Screen for your smartphone and tablet devices.
- U-Control — Available on both versions of the film, this PiP track comes with a great collection of BTS footage revealing how some scenes were accomplished. Interviews with cast & crew also appear in the pop-up window to provide some background commentary and insights.
- Reinventing the Fairytale (HD, 6 min) — Another assortment of interviews with the producers, writers and the director talking about the adaption while showing concept art and a short video directed by Sanders.
- Citizens of the Kingdom (HD) — Four separate featurettes that take a closer look at the characters in the movie with a variety of praises from cast and crew: "Fairest of Them all: Snow White" (6 min), "Deliciously Evil: Queen Ravenna" (6 min), "The Huntsman" (5 min) and "Motley Crew: The Dwarves" (7 min).
- The Magic of Snow White & the Huntsman (HD, 13 min) — An in-depth piece on the visual and CGI effects with lots of cool concept art, BTS footage of motion-capture and animatics showing the evolution of a scene.
- Around the Kingdom: 360° Set Tour (HD) — With a brief introduction from Sanders for each segment, viewers can explore the production sets at Pinewood Studios with 360° panoramic views and enjoy short videos as they relate to specific parts of that set. Locations include "King Magnus' Courtyard," "Village Near Castle Tabor," "Duke Hammond's Castle Encampment," "Queen Ravenna's Throne Room" and "Queen Ravenna's Mirror Room."
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Starring Kristen Stewart, Charlize Theron, and Chris Hemsworth, 'Snow White & the Huntsman' is a dark, modernized revision of the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale that's surprisingly entertaining and visually engrossing. Rupert Sanders makes his feature-length debut with flying colors. The Blu-ray arrives with spectacular video and reference quality audio. Many of the supplements are exclusives to the high-def format which will entice fans of the movie. Highly recommended.
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