There are any number of reasons to write off this latest wannabe fantasy adventure franchise: the derivative, identikit script and visual design
stolen from inspired by assorted recent films like The Lord of the Rings and The Chronicles of Narnia; the hand-me-down casting of Twilight star Kristen Stewart and Thor muscleman Chris Hemsworth; or the story – a puffed up version of the fairy tale with added teenage angst and testosterone – that tries (and fails) to inflate itself to epic proportions.
But despite all of that, I have to say I still kind of enjoyed it. Visually it does look nice, with first time director Rupert Sanders working from a palette primarily based around black and white (see what he did there?). The action scenes are quite well done. Acting honours are stolen by Charlize Theron as wicked Queen Ravenna, a witch who usurped the throne when White was a young girl. Bella and Thor aren’t bad either, though they do lack any sort of onscreen chemistry together which might suggest a romantic connection.
The dwarves who lost their position in the film’s title suddenly spring out of nowhere and turn out to be played by a who’s who of British middle-aged talent: Ian McShane, Bob Hoskins, Ray Winstone, Nick Frost, Eddie Marsan, Toby Jones and a bloke nobody’s heard of; let’s call him Brad Dexter. Upping the humour quotient, they do feel a bit tacked on but nevertheless the film is all the better for their presence.
I made the mistake of turning up for a subtitled screening of this film, which was oddly distracting. You wouldn’t think watching an English language film with English subtitles would be a problem, but in actual fact it is because your attention is constantly being grabbed by both forms of communication instead of just the one. As a consequence I spent half the film checking to see if what the cast were saying was the same as what the subtitles were printing.
Regardless, the film is a modestly likeable diversion, but I suspect it would have been more warmly received if it had been released during the winter, when folk tales like these help to lighten the long dark nights. Perhaps the small matter of The Hobbit adaptation seemed too daunting to the chaps in marketing?