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REVIEW: Spellbinding visuals dwarf weak characters in 'Snow White and the Huntsman'

Sumptuous, dark and visually delicious, “Snow White and the Huntsman” vividly paints the Grimm brothers’ fairy tale with a rich tapestry of fantasy and adventure.

While it's a heavily flawed film, there’s more good than bad to be found in this adaptation of the Grimm tale.

Let’s start with the good:

“Snow White and the Huntsman” is dark, as it should be. The original Grimm stories often cross the threshold into horror and this film honors that. If your only knowledge of Snow White is from the Disney version or the ridiculous “Mirror, Mirror,” then you’re in for a rude awakening. There are monsters, violence and plenty of scenes of souls being sucked out of bodies.

The visuals are breathtaking. From the liquid gold figure in the mirror on the wall to Ravenna’s (Charlize Theron) frighteningly gothic castle to the horrifying creatures in the Dark Forrest to the fairy-infested beauty of the Enchanted Forest, the setting is incredibly detailed and creates a vast, rich world. It’s hard to not be pleasantly overwhelmed by this fantasy land. The cinematography and production design are clearly following the successful path previous laid with “Lord of the Rings” but there’s also some beautiful fantasy imagery not really seen in a film since Ridley Scott’s “Legend.”

The overall story is an engrossing adventure and Chris Hemsworth steals the show as the Huntsman. With three different movies out in two months, Hemsworth is rightfully in demand. Between “Cabin in the Woods,” “The Avengers” and this, Hemsworth showcases his talent. Ironically the brutish huntsman is the only character in the whole film to show any emotion.

The Evil Queen is whiny as usual, but she at least is scary doing it. Here we see she is really a soul-sucking beast beneath a beautiful exterior, not just some spoiled temptress.

The dwarves are performed by a wealth of talent, although good luck understanding what any of them are saying. Bob Hoskins, Ian McShane, Toby Jones, Ray Winstone and Nick Frost are given the hobbit treatment and shrunk down to dwarf size. They’re a wonderful addition to the film.

The not-so-good:

Like “Mirror, Mirror,” this is supposed to be about Snow White, right? But again Snow White has relatively nothing to do in this film until the end. The title could very well stand strong with “The Huntsman,” since he is primarily the focus throughout the film. Even though the visuals are amazing, more attention was spent on creating a unique world than on character.

Charlize Theron is inspired casting to play the evil queen. She looks incredible in the part and she sure can dish out one sinister icy stare, but she is beset but some eye-rollingly bad dialogue. Her uber-evil moments are diminished by her silly exclamations. It’s hard at times not to think that “Snow White and the Huntsman” would make a brilliant silent movie

There is little to no connection between Snow White and Ravenna. Without that connection the battle between the two characters is emotionless and thus fruitless. Why should we care that Snow is trying to protect her heart and restore her kingdom?

Finally, Kristen Stewart… Like her vampire movies she has little to do but be bandied about from one “savior” to another without taking the reins herself. Her Snow White lacks any semblance of personality, which goes against the whole purpose of the film. Ravenna wants her pure, innocent, full-of-life heart to make her immortal. Ravenna must see something in this Snow White that we’re not.

Still, despite its many flaws, “Snow White and the Huntsman” is fantastic entertainment and is worth the exciting sensory experience alone.

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