The Huntsman: Winter’s War, 2016.
Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, Alexandra Roach, Sam Claflin, Charlize Theron, and Liam Neeson.
As two evil sisters prepare to conquer the land, two renegades Eric the Huntsman, who previously aided Snow White in defeating Ravenna, and his forbidden lover Sara set out to stop them.
How do you make a Snow White movie without Snow White? The answer is you probably shouldn’t, but The Huntsman: Winter’s War exists anyway. It’s a franchise that shouldn’t even be a franchise considering Kristen Stewart opted not to return for what would become a narrative disaster of a prequel/sequel. Universal simply should have put their time, effort, and money into something else once she declined, because there was likely no way this movie was ever going to work. Don’t blame first-time feature director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan; he’s just a hired gun trying to climb the corporate Hollywood ladder, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
If nothing else, he and his team of visual effects artists certainly made various aspects of this fantasy world look arresting. The standout is undoubtedly the Ice Queen Freya (played with sinister beauty and malevolence by Emily Blunt), who is admittedly a blatant ripoff of Elsa from Frozen, but her ability to conjure up and shoot out thick and jagged streams of ice from her fingertips does look fantastically awesome. Similar so are Ravenna’s (a returning Charlize Theron that steals the show even with limited screen time) black slimy tentacles she uses as a weapon.
Unfortunately for The Huntsman: Winter’s War, most of the running time time is spent with Chris Hemsworth (returning as the titular huntsman Eric), giving him an origin story, all while exploring the past and present relationship with his archery skilled wife Sara played by Jessica Chastain. Now obviously, both of these actors are gorgeous human specimens and charming in the right roles, but they are essentially given nothing to do here. I can sum up the entire plot of this movie in one sentence: soldier gets separated from wife, both reunite seven years later looking to keep a deadly mirror out of the wrong hands, with everything ending in a cacophony of CGI.
A good hour of this movie is just characters wandering around a forest looking for the supernatural mirror. There is also an absurdly stupid subplot where the huntsman and his wife are conflicted towards loving each other, because they would rather assume the worst about the other person than use some damn common sense and realize that the evil manipulative bitchy Ice Queen that forbids love, is in fact a manipulative bitch. The story itself is disjointed with no flow whatsoever, spending around 20 minutes establishing some characters and events before the first movie, and then jumping in time to the aftermath, with the writers doing everything in their power to acknowledge Snow White as little as possible, without ever forcing a situation that requires her presence. It goes without saying that the result is an awkwardly clumsy mess.
Theoretically, this could work, but the character of the Huntsman is boring. Hemsworth cannot really be faulted (even though whatever accent he is doing is all over the place and disruptive to listen to), because he just isn’t given anything interesting to do besides battle some generic looking monsters. The final 20 minutes or so of the movie is actually fun, because characters like Freya and Ravenna at least have some visually engrossing powers to show off during fights. The rest is just Hemsworth and Chastain bickering like idiots while some hideous looking dwarves (the faces of the actors are superimposed onto real-life dwarves) fail at providing comic relief.
The story also becomes far less compelling when any character that seemingly dies just comes back to life eventually, regardless of their good/evil alignment. Practically all of the fake deaths lack any emotional weight whatsoever (obviously Jessica Chastain isn’t dead considering that the trailer already shows many more scenes with her). Even when characters betray each other, it all rings hollow; The Huntsman: Winter’s War is just going through the motions of bland cash-in summer blockbusters.
It’s hard to completely hate the film though, considering that at times it can be very good popcorn fun with some razzle-dazzle special-effects and stunningly vibrant costumes, but for the most part it will plain bore viewers out of their minds. This movie has no reason to exist; I’m not even sure who it is aimed at. Furthermore, there should be some sort of severe punishment for wasting a stacked cast that includes Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, and Charlize Theron. If there was a way to make this whole project work, doubling down on character development and screen time for the two rivaling sister queens might have yielded something passable, as once again, they briefly elevate The Huntsman: Winter’s War into a fun blockbuster extravaganza.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★
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