“Why did we need a sequel?” seemed to be the question with The Huntsman: Winter’s War, especially after the confusing trailers made this movie look like both a prequel and a sequel, but without Snow White. Well, 2012’s Snow White and The Huntsman (SWATH) did “okay” at the box office and with critics, so Universal thought that warranted a sequel (Yay, mediocrity). So here we are.
Funny thing, though. After Universal got a little too excited with the “greenlight” button, the affair between Snow White actress Kristen Stewart and SWATH director Rupert Sanders went down, which threw an enormous wrench into the plans for the sequel. Would Stewart return sans Sanders? Would Sanders return sans Stewart? Or would Universal say “Screw it!” and make a spin-off starring Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman? They chose the latter. Kind of.
Something about the mishmash of story going on in The Huntsman: Winter’s War tells me this movie originally planned to include Snow White. Because it’s not really a spin-off at all. While it does further build out The Huntsman’s background, it’s still an adventure that involves Snow White, despite her not being there. It’s like they wrote a movie about Snow White and The Huntsman fighting the Ice Queen, who takes the magic mirror to conquer Snow White’s kingdom, and then just wrote Snow White out of the action.
So here’s the gist. Freya (Emily Blunt), the younger sister of evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), suffers the tragic loss of her baby daughter at the hands of the man she loves, and she goes all Elsa on everyone and heads into isolation. In her icy, northern kingdom, she raises an army of huntsman, consisting of the children she steals from other kingdoms, and implements one rule: no one can ever love. So, naturally, Hemsworth’s Huntsman falls in love with another warrior, Sara (Jessica Chastain). But here’s where it gets weird…
That all happens before the Snow White vs. Ravenna story. The back half of the movie, however, takes place after Snow White defeated Ravenna. That’s when the whole “Snow White wants The Huntsman to take the magic mirror away so the Ice Queen can’t use it against her” plot comes into play. Except Snow White doesn’t give those orders because she’s not there. Her now-husband, William (Sam Clafin), shows up for all of two seconds to deliver a plot and tell you Snow White is “unwell.” HOW CONVENIENT.
The rest of the movie is The Huntsman and Sara fighting for their love with intermittent dwarf hijinks for comic relief. But dwarfs Nion (Nick Frost), Gryff (Rob Brydon), Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith), and Doreena (Alexandra Smith) serve no purpose to the plot, which makes their inclusion seem like more of a distraction than anything. Plus, there’s a serious lack of war, even though war was implied in the movie’s title. I don’t understand how you can mess that one up.
And despite The Huntsman: Winter’s War having a strong A-list cast, it seems like they only showed up for a paycheck. Blunt is the only one who seems like she’s trying, and Theron’s only in the movie for five minutes to chew scenery. Hemsworth and Chastain have no chemistry together, and they can’t even manage to stay consistent with their Scottish accents, which go in and out every five minutes or get so strong that you can’t understand a word they’re saying. Are you getting an idea of how much of a hot mess this movie is?
Honestly, the only good things are the costumes designed by Oscar-winner Colleen Atwood (of Chicago, Memoirs of a Geisha, Alice in Wonderland) and the visual effects (which were the best part of SWATH, too). Seriously, Blunt’s Ice Queen costumes are immaculate and will be cosplayed like no one’s business. And the ice powers and liquidized magic mirror effects are cool as hell.
My recommendation is that you skip out on The Huntsman: Winter’s War. It might be visually-arresting, but it lacks purpose, a story that makes sense, and characters you care about.