Written by Evan Daugherty, John Lee Hancock and Hossein Amini, take two parts Brothers Grimm fairy tale, two parts “Lord of the Rings,” one part Jeanne d'Arc, and one part Harlequin Romance sprinkled liberally with the slickest CGI you’re likely to see this summer and you have an excellent reason to escape your own drab reality for a tad over two hours to enjoy this on the big screen, with or without the popcorn. That is, if you don’t mind the dubious temporal inconsistencies, including constant parallel story lines that require very different arcs to complete, shifting seasons over the course of a few days; or the pretty medieval armies that book end the story consisting of spotless cavalry without siege engines, infantry or logistical support. And, in the spirit of modernization, there are eight dwarves, initially.
But apart from the dubious logic which strings the whole thing together (the first law of successful fantasy reality has always been the big impossibilities are acceptable so long as the little ones are founded upon some semblance of logic,) it’s a fun ride that shifts gears at regular intervals, so that not everything is predictable. Charlize Theron steals the show as the wicked wicked step-mother/witch; Chris Hemsworth should patent his big lovable brute schtick because he’s got it down pat; and Kristen Stuart makes an unbelievably wholesome heroine. Ian McShane and Bob Hoskin make great dwarves, by the way—more CGI—and the Troll alone is worth the price of admission.
The tale is largely dark, in keeping with the Brother’s Grimm mood (save for a brief sojourn through “fairy land”) but cast on a stage so much wider. The huntsman, a minor character in the story, gets second billing and plays a significantly larger role. The handsome prince is there, too, although for some reason he’s kept off the poster (along with the dwarves) and his role is largely to keep you guessing which hero will win the fair maiden’s heart. Should you need a bit of revisionist plot by way of encouragement, either read the fairy tale or revisit the Disney animated version and imagine all the ways you could puff it up to make it louder, more appealing to a male audience, taking hints from the first paragraph above, while still playing to the ladies. If, on the other hand, you, need your fantasy rock solid—stick to Peter Jackson’s interpretations of J. R. R. Tolkien, because that’s as close as you’re ever likely to get.