Snow White & the Huntsman is supposedly a retelling of the Grimm version of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, but it is clearly based on the Disney version with its use of an apple rather than a comb, corset, and apple, and a kiss to revive Snow White instead of the apple being dislodged from her throat when the dwarfs stumble over a bush while carrying her coffin.
Yet even Disney's Snow White is more compelling than the sword-wielding Snow White in this movie. Where Snow White & the Huntsman critically fails is in the parallels between Snow White and Ravenna. Both of them are supposed to suffer from vanity, but the screenplay turns Snow White into a girl who is too boring to have any flaws.
In the Grimm version, Snow White risks her life three times because she can't resist the beautiful wares sold by the old peddler women (her stepmother in disguise) who visit the dwarfs' cottage. Even though the dwarfs unlaced the corset that took away Snow White's breath, removed the poisoned comb from her hair so she could live again, and told her not to open the door to anyone, she still did it because the beauty of those possessions was too much to pass up.
Ravenna is fair of hair, while her name evokes the color black. The significance of Snow White's name is obvious, and her hair is, as her mother wishes for at the beginning of the movie, black as raven's wings. In the Grimm tale, she wished for her to have hair as dark as the ebony of a window frame. Even though there is a link between the color of Snow White's hair and Ravenna's name that suggests they are similar people, it only leaves me going, "Oh, that's kind of cool" because there is no pay off for this set-up. Many of the scenes in SW&H are only there to look cool. Though it was gorgeous to see Charlize Theron standing in the center of swarming ravens, it didn't mean anything.
As with all retellings that I've been exposed to, Snow White's cruelty is erased. No iron shoes await Ravenna at Snow White's coronation. Snow White isn't allowed to be angry; she has to defeat the her captor with kindness.
The movie starts out with narration from the Huntsman, a terrible sign right from the get go. A story that should be Snow White's is immediately framed by a man who didn't meet her until she came of age, and so has not been witness to her struggle. The same thing happened in Tangled, and I'm already tired of it. Stop letting men narrate stories that belong to women. I know the movie is called Snow White & the Huntsman, which means you might argue that it is also the Huntsman's story, but he only ever narrates Snow White's part of the tale.
Snow White doesn't have the support of other women in the battlefield. When she does meet a group of women and girls, she plays dolls with a woman's daughter. After a fire that forces Snow White and Huntsman to flee the village of women, those women disappear until the end of the film when they show up to smile at Snow White's coronation. That's it. They've scarred their faces so Ravenna won't have reason to steal their life force because, for some reason, being young and ugly doesn't translate to youthful life force the queen can use.
At the very least, people actually mourn Snow White's death in the movie. A prince doesn't insist on taking her back to his kingdom so he may gaze upon her beauty for all his days. Huntsman and William are shown in pain, displaying their human connection to her. But she's still seen as a prize rather than a warrior. When Snow White is ready to go into battle, Huntsman tells her she looks fetching in armor. She doesn't look intimidating or mighty or at least like she is someone not to be underestimated. She is fetching--so cute dressed in armor, getting ready to avenge her father's death. I guess I can't blame Huntsman too much since there was not a single moment of Snow White training. The script kept her incompetent.
The trailer promised us a warrior. The movie gave us an unskilled Chosen One in armor. The Brothers Grimm published a version of the oral tale with far more complex characters in 1812 than a group of writers did in 2012. We deserve better. We really, really don't deserve Snow White & the Huntsman 2.