The Huntsman: Winter’s War

2016-04-22 10:34

What it's about:

The fates of the huntsman, Eric, and the Queen, Ravenna, are deeply and dangerously intertwined.

What we thought:

The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a movie that faced challenges, many questioning whether or not it should have been made at all. Originally it was a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, with the return of Kristen Stewart and director Rupert Sanders, but after news of their affair broke the movie went into a downward spin. 

The story got changed to a prequel, the first director Frank Darabont left the film over creative differences and the first film’s visual effects supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan made his directorial debut. Taking all of this into consideration, The Huntsman is a film that could have been good, but it's missing many key elements.

In this version of the fairy tale, the story goes back to before Snow White, showing the origin of the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), his lost love (Jessica Chastain) and the Ice Queen (Emily Blunt), sister to the beautiful evil queen (Charlize Theron). After Ravenna’s defeat, her sister tries to recover her magical golden mirror.

First off, if you look past the plot, the missing character motivations and horrifyingly bad Scottish and Cockney accents, The Huntsman is an art piece of visual effects and costumes, showcasing beautiful forest creature design, ice magic that’s extremely striking in its roughness and Ravenna’s gold and black magical feats that move with efficient deadliness. The costumes are also gorgeous, especially Theron’s outfits that screams evil royalty. The first film did get nominated for two Oscars in the Costume Design and Visual Effects categories, and The Huntsman has continued to produce quality production design.

However, the beauty could not hide the many major flaws of the story. It went backwards and forwards in terms of chronology, with a random 2-second stand-in for Snow White that wasn’t Stewart. It’s like they completely ignored the fact that the Huntsman woke Snow White with true love’s kiss, and threw another love interest at him that took the gravity of true love away. This is one of many loose ends that never gets dealt with properly. Even a small cameo of Stewart in the beginning to tie the last movie in with this one would have done a lot of good to the plot. Everything is pretty predictable, even the supposed ‘twists’, and it feels like an incomplete script, as if many important scenes are missing, and so we come back to the film’s turbulent journey to creation.

Previous director Darabont clearly had a certain vision for the project, and the studio had something else in mind, which forced him to leave. Nicolas-Troyan tried to work with both Darabont’s and the studio’s versions to come up with something in-between, but unfortunately it left a mess in its wake.

The worst is that the cast is stellar with the material they had to work with. Blunt is great, but her character’s motivation had elements missing. The Ice Queen is very layered in why she did what she did; yet it didn’t feel complete. 

The same could be said for Theron’s queen, who is as terrifying as the previous film, but her screen time is extremely short. In her case, it felt like she had more scenes that would have bolstered the relationship between the sisters, but Theron might have been too expensive to film all of them.  Still, when she is on screen she's fantastic, her allure and terror projecting out of her like a shining beacon of dread.

These actresses definitely overpowered the performances of Hemsworth and Chastain, who became secondary characters with terrible Scottish accents and played up humour way too often. 

They could have made the film much darker like the first one, but instead opted for something more light-hearted that didn’t fit the theme of the story. I would love to see more dark fairy tales done in the style of the Huntsman series, but focus needs to be given to story and characters and not just the pretty effects.

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