When I originally reviewed ‘Snow White & the Huntsman” back in 2012, I was surprised by how fun the fantasy element was, but was bored by the dour, gloomy visuals that dominated the screen. I didn’t care much for Kristen Stewart’s portrayal of Snow White, but I made the claim that “I’d rather see a movie dedicated to the Huntsman. His story might actually be interesting.”
Be careful what you wish for.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War takes place years before ‘Snow White & the Huntsman’ and a short time after the events in that movie. In short, it’s a prequel-sequel. This movie opens up with Liam Neeson randomly telling the story of two sisters, Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and Freya (Emily Blunt). These two sisters have taken over several kingdoms, but tragedy turns Freya into an ice queen who flees to the mountains to disregard love forever. She must “let it go,” if you will.
Leading Freya’s army of Huntsmen are Eric and Sara (Jessica Chastain). Their forbidden love makes them an enemy to the queen they serve. Skip ahead a Snow White movie and Eric finds himself in the middle of a search for the magic mirror seen in the original movie.
The only real question I have is for the lead actresses. Why in the world would you decide to be in this movie? Sure, Charlize is no stranger to genre film, but why would Emily Blunt sign up for this? These are three of the most talented working actresses around. The draw to work with Chris Hemsworth can’t be that strong, can it?
On that note, there has to be a drinking game linked to the amount of times that Hemsworth takes off his shirt in every one of his movies, right? I swear it’s in his contract.
The successful portions of the first movie are due to the fantastical elements and the comic relief brought by the dwarves. The only returning dwarf is Nion (Nick Frost). He’s joined by his brother and eventually meets up with two female dwarves. Any levity in The Huntsman is due to their banter. They feel like characters ripped right from an ’80s fantasy adventure. Had the movie tried any harder to keep with that tone, this may have been a great homage to that era. However, there is very little magic, metaphorical or literal on screen until the very end. The best attempt to make this world feel like something fantastical was by adding tinkerbell-esque fairies to otherwise mirky scenes.
There is a adventurous movie hiding in The Huntsman, but it only attempts to crawl to that standard. It’s dreadfully slow, allowing for a solid 20 minutes to be cut. The effects aren’t great, but once again, I’d forgive them if this were just a smidge more campy.
With so much narration telling us this fairy tale, I wish it had taken more of a Princess Bride route. Instead it became a cheap way to give exposition and try to make the transition from prequel to sequel as seamless as possible.
The Huntman: Winter’s War is a rental, but only if you have some affinity for Snow White and the Huntsman. It’s hard to imagine there being another prequel/sequel in its future. C-