Dan's Review: "The Huntsman: Winter's War" is barely fair
Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain in The Huntsman: Winter's War - © 2016 - Universal Pictures.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence and some sensuality.
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, Alexandra Roach, Sope Dirisu, Sam Hazeldine, Sam Claflin, Sophie Cookson, Conrad Khan, Niamh Walter, Nana Agyeman-Bediako.
Written by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin, based on characters by Evan Daugherty.
Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan.
Sometimes, you see a movie and forget it was even released. It may or may not have done well at the domestic box office, but you’d never think it was worthy of a sequel. When the film does much better overseas a surprising sequel (or prequel, or both) often emerges. Such is the case for The Huntsman: Winter’s War, a sequel/prequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman.
The story picks up before the downfall of the evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) at the hands of Snow White (Kristen Stewart, who appears in the new film via flashbacks and rear-view stand-in) and Eric/The Huntsman (Chris Hemsley). We learn that Ravenna killed her dad to gain the throne while enticing her sister Freya (Emily Blunt) to discover her own dark powers when confronted with the tragedy of losing her lover and infant daughter. Overcome with grief and her newfound powers of freezing all around her, Freya retreats to the north country where she builds a powerful army by kidnapping children and training them as elite soldiers (or “huntsmen”). Two of the more gifted kids are the young Eric and brave Sarah (Conrad Khan, Niamh Walter as youth) who grow up to become Freya’s fiercest fighters (played by Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain as adults). Sarah and Eric eventually fall in love pronounce themselves “married.” Freya, who forbids love in her kingdom, discovers their affair. The couple is separated and Sarah is thought dead as Eric is beaten and tossed into a frosty river where he floats to freedom and later becomes Snow White’s hero.
In present day, Eric is given a mission to find Ravenna’s lost magic mirror and hide it forever. Joining him on his quest are Nion (Nick Frost) and Gryff (Rob Brydon), two dwarves. The group also welcomes a few female dwarves (Sheridan Smith and Sophie Cookson) to the party. They eventually meet up with Sarah, who Eric thought was dead. Freya and her army catch up with the group, snag the mirror and bring it back to the frost kingdom where she recites the famous “Mirror, mirror…” rhyme that summons someone of great significance (okay, no spoilers, but you can figure out who). A battle between the person from the mirror, Eric, Sarah, the dwarves and a few other characters ensues, leaving Freya with a conscious decision to make. Will true love triumph after all?
Yeah, you probably figured that out, too.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War has a few things going for it, namely Charlize Theron (again), Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain. The three dynamic women are the heart of the film, and relegate Hemsworth to “the muscle” status, although the ladies all seem perfectly capable handling their own battles. I suppose the producers had to give women audiences some eye candy to fill the theater seats, so you get a watered down version of Thor (again).
The main problem with the movie is disjointed story, half-baked, schmaltzy dialogue and very few “wow” moments among a lot of computer-generated special effects. The dwarves offer a limited amount of humor, but not enough to keep your attention, nor interested in the movie’s outcome.
Speaking of outcomes, the worst cliché in The Huntsman: Winter’s War is the prevalence of several characters that return from apparent death all too often. If true love is going to win, why not let the story play out instead of hiding behind a parade of Deus Ex Machina ploys and hidden scenes? Escaping sure death is one thing, but relying on magic and parlor tricks to explain sudden reappearances of main characters makes the audience lose trust.
Then again, maybe the foreign markets are immune to such chicanery, and we can expect another Huntsman sequel in 4 more years.
The Huntsman: Winter's War Trailer