Undoubtedly one of the best-looking Blu-rays I’ve come across recently, Snow White and the Huntsman may even be the only title this year that I’ve awarded a perfect 10 score to in terms of video presentation. Whatever misgivings you may have about the movie itself, there’s no doubt that’s it’s visually stunning, impressing at every level and in every way. This may not have Tarsem Singh’s opulent eye behind it, but it’s still a wonderful world that has been created, fully realised down to the smallest detail, as is evident in this picture-perfect rendition.
Presented with a High Definition 1080p/AVC encoded transfer in the movie’s original theatrical aspect ratio of 2.35:1 widescreen it will be a challenge for even the more pernickety problem-spotter to find fault with the images on display here. Fine object detail abounds, the wider shots are crystal clear all the way to the far corners of the screen, and close-up face shots showcase every line and every crease, even on the visage of the fairest of them all herself. From texture details on the clothes to subtle touches on the immaculate set design – you can revel over it all.
There’s impressive sharpness but no sign of edge enhancement; noise never distracts but there’s also no sign of unruly DNR application; and the movie is often steeped in both rich colours and utter darkness, but never betrayed by either bleeding or crush. Contrast levels are spot-on, and the colour scheme stretches from the perfect crimson red of blood through to the lush and vibrant inner circle of the woodland; from the glassy perfection of the Queen’s dark army to the oily blacks of her raven transformation. Whites never feel overblown and blacks never engulf the shadow detail, the picture riding the perfect edge close to both extremes, but never crossing the line. It’s stunning, demo quality material from start to finish and gets the highest recommendation.
Just as impressive, the accompanying DTS-HD 7.1 Master Audio track also secures the film’s position as demo material, also edging into the same perfect-10 rating that reflected the flawlessness of the video. It’s a close call though, but there’s simply nothing to complain about on this thoroughly engaging, oftentimes engulfing mix, which knows just when to pound at you, as much as it knows when to stir you with its subtle surround touches. Finding a single flaw in it is near-impossible, and you can sit back, turn the volume up to as close to reference as you dare get it, and guarantee that you’ll be swept away to the magical kingdom of Tabor and its enchanted surroundings.
Dialogue comes across clearly and coherently throughout the proceedings, never risking being overwhelmed by any of the other aural elements – however noisy the battles get; however riotous the score becomes – and finds keen placement across the frontal array, only expanding out to the surrounds to allow for crowds and off-screen cries. Effects are stunningly observed, from the moments where characters burst into ravens or butterflies to the literal shattering of the dark army; from the unidentified menace that broods all around you in the cursed forest, to the crashing waves at the castle’s edges. Each specific landscape has its own aural soundscape crafted to reflect its assets, and the end result is resoundingly impressive – as the setting changes, so does the balance across the array, leaving you with a cinematic journey that is almost as aurally-determined as it is visually.
With all the key elements grounded with the gravitas of weighty but never overpowering LFE action, it’s still the rear observation that truly impresses, and has the most impact in transporting you to the fantasy world from the comfort of your own living room. The atmospherics are stunningly well-observed across the rears, and, coupled with the welcome input of the score – not wholeheartedly memorable, but still thematic enough to rise above the blurry majority – they seldom get a break across the entire proceedings. Great video and great audio, this is the kind of excellent presentation that makes you wonder why they can’t do this for all movies.
Similarly matching up in the extras department, the UK release of Snow White and the Huntsman boasts all the same features as well as access to both the Theatrical Cut and the Extended Edition (discussed further in the movie review above). Whilst not quite as perfect as the video and audio, the welcome selection of extras ticks all the right boxes, supplying everything from Featurettes to PiP and Commentary tracks, and will certainly not disappoint fans of the film.
Feature Commentary with the Director Rupert Sanders, Visual Effects Supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and Co-Editor Neil Smith has the filmmakers discuss their work on this feature, offering a fairly candid although not utterly compelling voyage through the production. They cover all the bases, taking us through concept to script; casting to filming; effects to post-production, allowing us a reasonably good blend of interesting titbits and dry technical information.
U-Control offers up a spotty picture-in-picture track which does allow access to several interesting behind the scenes mini-featurettes playing out whilst you’re watching the movie, but does not have quite enough to compete with a full IME in the vein of Maximum Movie Mode. Still, the background material we get is nice, with a look at the effects progressions and numerous interview snippets from the cast and crew as well.
Interactive Set Tour
Around the Kingdom: 360° Set Tour allows you access to the Pinewood Studios sets through panoramic HD stills which cover every inch of the massive sets. There are five main locations: the Courtyard, the Village, the Encampment, the Throne Room and the Mirror Room.
A New Legend is Born is a 21-minute HD Featurette which has members of the cast and crew talk about this new approach to the classic tale, the dark tones they were going for as juxtaposed with other interpretations of Snow White, and the historical accuracy they attempted to ground the set-up in.
Reinventing the Fairytale is just 6 minutes long, also in HD, and looking specifically at this reimagining of the classic fairytale, comparing to the original Brothers Grimm story and looking at the effort made to retain the key elements whilst grounding them in a very different world. We also get a brief look at the director’s pitch for the project.
Citizens of the Kingdom is a sub-section containing a series of short HD mini-Featurettes – Fairest of them all: Snow White; Deliciously Evil: Queen Ravenna; The Huntsman; Motley Crew: The Dwarves. Totally just over 20 minutes of background material (although there is no Play All option), this is a nice, if slightly self-promoting, series of small additions which offers up further detail into these key characters, with contributions from the actors who brought them to life.
The Magic of Snow White and the Huntsman is a further 13 minute Featurette that looks specifically at the effects used to bring this dark fantasy to life, showcasing the concept art and test animatics, as well as breaking down the visual effects used to bring the key set-pieces (and characters) to life.
I enjoyed Snow White and the Huntsman, flawed as it may have been. I certainly don’t think it will be to everybody’s tastes – it’s almost as if the classic Brothers Grimm fairytale / Disney cartoon has been reworked for The Hunger Games generation, which is a good or a bad thing, depending on your perspective. On the plus side we have another solid, charismatic Chris Hemsworth performance; another (largely) great dark turn from Charlize Theron; and an ensemble of Brit heavyweights bringing the trusty dwarves to life; as well as a suitably imaginative reimagining of the classic story; and some particularly stylish settings and set-pieces within them. On the minus side we have a slightly overlong story arc which has some forgivable pacing issues, and a less forgivable miscasting of Snow White herself – Kristen Stewart. I’m pretty sure she was once a credible actress but, after the curse of Twilight, she appears to have settled into a disappointing habit of dull acting, failing to convince in any of the more ‘emotional’ moments and not having the slightest spark of chemistry with either of her supposed love interests (although I guess that was because she was too busy sparking things up with the director off-screen). Whether this will ruin the movie or not for you will largely depend on how easily you get swept up in the rest of the magic.
On Region Free UK Blu-ray we get the same perfect video and audio presentation – as well as the same hefty selection of decent extras – as the US counterpart that was released a month earlier. This is easily one of the best-looking discs I’ve covered this year, the real question is whether or not you’ll like the movie. For some, this will succeed in being one of the best alternate visions of a fairytale ever dreamt up. For others, this will be too close to Twilight (not least because of the wooden Stewart) and too far away from the Lord of the Rings-style voyage it so wants to be. I’d strongly recommend a rental to find out which side you fall upon – you won’t be disappointed to have at least watched it, even if you don’t decide to add it to your collection. And, you never know, you may just find yourself won over by the flawed but irresistibly entertaining world of Snow White and the Huntsman, and curious to know where they go next.
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