THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR:
NOT SO FAIR THE SECOND TIME AROUND!
By Nico Beland
Movie Review: C (2 ½ stars)
(from left to right) Queen Ravenna, Eric the Huntsman, Sara, and Freya in The Huntsman: Winter’s War
Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all? Charlize Theron (Monster, Prometheus, Mad Max: Fury Road) as the Evil Queen Ravenna, but unfortunately you don’t get much of the badass villain queen in this follow-up to the 2012 hit, Snow White & the Huntsman. When Snow White & the Huntsman came out in 2012, it was a hit at the box office, but the reviews were mixed respectively, honestly I thought the film was okay, nothing great but it wasn’t terrible either, Kristen Stewart, despite having a lot of hokey acting in the film, she was much more tolerable to sit through than in the Twilight films, and then there’s the badass Charlize Theron as Ravenna and the charming Chris Hemsworth (Marvel Cinematic Universe, The Cabin in the Woods, Rush) hot off his Thor performance takes on the role as Eric the Huntsman.
I agree Snow White & the Huntsman has a lot of problems, but the action sequences, cinematography, special effects, and performances by Theron and Hemsworth were enough to keep me entertained from the beginning to end. Between that and the other Snow White related film that came out in 2012, Mirror Mirror, I thought Huntsman was the better movie between the two, it re-invented the classic fairy tale and grew it up.
Due to the film’s success, we now have The Huntsman: Winter’s War, part prequel, part sequel, and features Theron, Hemsworth, and Nick Frost (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, The World’s End) reprising their roles from the first film. Kristen Stewart’s Snow White however was scrapped in Winter’s War and in her place we get two new badass female characters including Emily Blunt (Looper, Edge of Tomorrow, Sicario) as Ravenna’s evil sister, Freya the Ice Queen, and unlike a certain animated musical, she does not sound like Idina Menzel and is much more aggressive, and Jessica Chastain (Zero Dark Thirty, The Martian, Crimson Peak) as Eric’s love interest and master at archery, Sara.
So judging by all the talent brought in for this follow-up to an adequate movie, The Huntsman: Winter’s War should be amazing, right? Well, sadly, it’s at the cost of less action and thrills than its predecessor.
Don’t get me wrong, there are action sequences in it and the climax near the end is a lot of fun, but compared to the action in the first movie, it’s strangely lacking. Not to mention there are quite a few plot elements that don’t really go anywhere, yeah, it’s sad that the one with Kirsten Stewart is actually better than the one with three badass and talented female leads.
Before the events of Snow White & the Huntsman, the film follows the evil Queen Ravenna (Theron) learning that her sister, Freya the Ice Queen (Blunt) is engaged in a forbidden affair with the Duke of Blackwood and carrying his child. Suddenly after birth the Duke kills the child, thus causing Freya to go into a blizzard of a rage, kills him with her long-suppressed ice powers, and abandons the kingdom and builds a solitary ice palace in the North (And no she doesn’t sing when she does this!).
Freya spends her time murdering anyone who opposes her and amasses an army of children and trains them so their hearts will be forever hardened. When her Huntsman, Eric (Hemsworth) and archer, Sara (Chastain) fall in love when love is forbidden in her kingdom, she separates them with an icy wall, thus resulting in Sara being stuck in the palace with no means of escape.
After seven years have passed, Ravenna is dead and Snow White is now queen of the kingdom (Yeah, little spoiler from the last film!), Eric eventually reunites with Sara and dwarves, Nion (Frost) with his half-brother Gryff (Rob Brydon-MirrorMask, The Trip, Cinderella (2015)), and two female dwarves, Doreena (Alexandra Roach-The Iron Lady, Cuban Fury, Testament of Youth), and Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith-Hysteria, Quartet, The Big C) who accompany them on their journey to stop Freya from using the Magic Mirror to bring Ravenna back and take back the kingdom from Snow White.
Overall, The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a significant improvement over Snow White & the Huntsman in terms of its casting, but the story and lack of action makes this follow-up fall flat. The film focuses too much on the romance between Hemsworth and Chastain, granted it’s better than Hemsworth’s chemistry with Stewart from the first movie, their dialogue together gets really hokey at times and it just makes you wish the action would get started sooner.
Not to mention, the film does not have much Queen Ravenna, which is a shame because she was basically the highlight of the first movie and she had a lot of screen time. Here, she’s only in the beginning, before the climax begins, and during the climax, which is really lacking and a waste of a great talent.
But with that said, Emily Blunt as Freya is badass, she’s more of the highlight in this film and a different type of performance for Blunt. Usually I see her as a hero or love interest, it’s really a breath of fresh air to see her portray a villain, though I would have liked more screen time of her and Charlize Theron together because they make the movie.
Chris Hemsworth is charming as always, Jessica Chastain kicks ass with her bow and arrows, Nick Frost is funny at times, and when the action sequences do get going, they’re usually very epic, especially the climax. Besides the action, the cinematography, like the first film is gorgeous, especially the sweeping shots of the mountains.
But again, it’s a shame this movie isn’t better than Snow White & the Huntsman, I’m not calling it terrible or anything, but in terms of story and action, it feels like a big step backwards, you’d better off seeing The Jungle Book instead.