Huntsman: Winter’s War is a “craptastic” catastrophe, one of the more frustrating examples of Hollywood mentality toward franchises that illustrate the worst cash-grabbing mindset of making sequels. The further adventures of the Huntsman and Ravenna (Snow White is nothing more than a namesake here) is a lame, boring, shoddily concatenated tale of cinematic fantasy nonsense. It is pointless and dull. It is a shame that such a large cast of more than capable Hollywood actors are shackled in this mess of a movie. Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain embarrass themselves as Eric and Sara. Emily Blunt treats the material with a wasted serious tone resulting in a performance that feels out of place with the rest of the film. Only Charlize Theron seems to get the approach necessary to sell the sheer absurdity planted throughout Huntsman: Winter’s War. There are only small hints of fun and excitement buried within the film that struggle hard to redeem this mess of a movie. It ends up proving it is the sequel to a film no one wanted…and that no one will see. Gah!
The script for Huntsman: Winter’s War is part prequel and part sequel with its opening acts setting up the conflict between Eric, the Huntsman and Ravenna seeking revenge for her defeat by Snow White and Eric’s hands in Snow White and the Huntsman. In the first segments, the script introduces Queen Freya, Ravenna’s sister who begins the film her polar opposite. Freya is in love and carrying a child, a girl who will become far more beautiful than Ravenna. Freya’s hidden powers are revealed when her lover goes mad and murders their offspring. Freya heads to the north and builds an army, raised from “freed” children. Among those children are Eric (The Huntsman) and Sara who will become the Huntsman’s wife. Freya, jealous of their affection, appears to murder Sara in front of Eric and sends him off to dies in the frozen wild of the North. He, of course, survives and journeys on to become part of Snow White and the Huntsman.
From there the film picks up months after the end of Snow White and the Huntsman as Eric receives word that Snow White herself requires his help in locating a stolen relic left over from Ravenna’s rule, the Golden Mirror. Aware of the mirror’s evil power, Eric reluctantly agrees and is joined by dwarfs Nion and Gryff. During their journey they encounter two female dwarfs Mrs. Bromwyn and Doreena as well as the miraculously alive Sara, the huntsman’s wife. Despite their best efforts, the mirror ends up in the hands of Queen Freya who releases Ravenna from her confinement within the mirror. It is here that the film finally become enjoyable due to Charlize Theron’s scenery chewing and over-the-top performance – just what this film needs.
The biggest problem is that Eric the Huntsman is just not a strong enough character to be shoved to the forefront of the franchise – at least not as portrayed by Chris Hemsworth. This is perhaps his worst performance in any of his films, it is lazy and confused – neither of which is likely his own fault. The character behaves more like a child than a hero, especially the closer to Sara he gets. It doesn’t make any sense he would behave the way he does taking nothing seriously. Having lost his wife was his motivation in the first film, having her return in the sequel is not met with any real emotion or consequence, even by the loosest fantasy terms. Combined with a distracting and inconsistent accent and horrendous dialog, Hemsworth’s Eric is the blandest of bland heroes no where near the charisma he brings to Thor or even compared to his Huntsman from the first film. Cut, print, check please.
Emily Blunt joins the foray as Ravenna’s sister Freya and is granted killer ice powers to become the frigid Queen of the North. Blunt is fine in the role taking the idiocy of the story with a professional seriousness. She certainly brings a lot to the role but the role doesn’t have a lot for her to do. She pouts, mumbles about inner conflict and reacts violently to any displays of “love.” Blunt is far better than what is being required of her. The role also would benefit greatly from an approach similar to Charlize Theron’s Ravenna suggesting that as good as Blunt is she is likely miscast as Freya. While her motivation to become evil is straightforward and in line with Ravenna’s narcissism toward her, she is a bit dense to miss the obvious clues scattered around her even in the distressed state the film implies. Freya may be the most mindless, shallow and unintelligent villain in recent film history. She is meant to be naive but instead she is far more imbecilic than desired.
Thank the maker for Charlize Theron. She nearly saves this film, almost. At the very least, she does heighten the entertainment factor significantly. Unfortunately, it may be a bit too little too late. Theron totally understands the material and brings the best approach to her role as she chews on the scenery with ferocity and assertive presence. When she arrives, everyone else fades away. She is a giant among men. She is able to step into the role and make to most preposterous plot points and dialog rich and commanding. A little bit of her approach shared among the rest of the cast would go a long way. Huntsman: Winter’s War is such an abomination that it could easily be a blemish on one’s career but Theron manages to exit unscathed. She is easily the film’s largest asset.
Huntsman: Winter’s War is directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan who handles the demands of the film’s effects and scope with ease and finesse but struggles to create a cohesive film in regards to tone, character and structure. Being primarily an effects artist prior, this being his first feature film, explains why the film looks a good as it does. The script is by Evan Spiliotopouls (Wanted 2, Hercules and various Disney direct to video features) and Craig Mazin (Scary Movie 3 & 4, The Hangover II & III and Identity Thief) – he is also the co-host of Scriptnotes, a podcast about the craft screenwriting. Charlize Theron nearly saves the film from obscurity with an extraordinary performance of scene-chewing excellence that the film demands to make it entertaining. Too bad no one else got the memo. Chris Hemsworth is a bit lost as Eric, the Huntsman and Jessica Chastain seems to be distracted, thinking to herself “Why didn’t Crimson Peak do better?” The film has a few highlights throughout to wake up the audience from the coma-inducing monotonousness plodding where the action kicks into gear or the special effects take over, such as a bizarrely fascinating battle with ram-horned, monkey faced, gold bleeding goblin thieves. Huntsman: Winter’s War fails to win the battle and loses the war and, at this point, Universal Pictures should just surrender.
Huntsman: Winter’s War (1 / 5)