The Huntsman: Winter’s War is the prequel/sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman. The first film wasn’t really great, and I certainly did not expect the sequel to be. I did, however, expect some cool war sequences and the usual corny nonsense one would expect from a film like this. In short: I expected entertainment. Even with these standards in mind, I was sadly disappointed.
The first thing that went wrong with this film was the absence of Kristen Stewart. Who makes a sequel for Snow White without Snow White? She was Snow White for god’s sake! The entire first film was hell-bent on turning Snow White into a badass warrior queen, but she is diluted to moping in her bedroom for the sequel.
The first film still did have some other factors that could have been used in the sequel like Ravenna (Charlize Theron), the evil sorceress queen who is a far more complex character than Snow White, and is equally responsible for the first film’s success. The film also has the charming Eric, the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and the unexplored subplot of his dead wife. There was also the timely release of Frozen. As we all know, fairy tales can be easily interwoven. Basically the studio loses one Disney princess but intercepts another. All these factors came together to create the sequel.
Enter Elsa … I mean Freya (Emily Blunt), Ravenna’s younger sister. She’s a (literal) ice queen who conceals herself, doesn’t feel and has a twisted maternal complex and an army of child soldiers (future huntsmen). Blunt gives a surprisingly organic and heartfelt performance to this misunderstood villain. Her sincerity contrasts Theron’s blatant cruelty, and the two produce a crackling chemistry that genuinely captivates the audience. Sounds like a good plan on paper. Sadly, it failed in its execution.
Ravenna and Freya, despite being key characters, are so grossly underutilized. This should have been the main focus event of the film, but was unfortunately sidelined for the less compelling, sappy love story between Eric and his wife, Sara (Jessica Chastain). Thankfully, Sara is not a damsel in distress; she is an equally skilled huntswoman who is easily likable and unquestionably tough. She kicks ass, and she does a better Scottish accent than Hemsworth.
Despite having three rich, well-constructed female characters, the film is intent on selling Eric as the hero. This issue isn’t unusual in Hollywood, but feels especially wrong in a film so rooted in feminist ideologies. This film builds off of the success of woman-centric mega hits like Frozen, The Hunger Games (Sara is an immaculate archer with a braided ponytail) and even Snow White. The trailer sells the idea of super-queens battling for power as Halsey’s “Castle” blares in the background. Blunt, Theron and Chastain have all played leading roles in some of the best action films of recent times (Sicario, Mad Max: Fury Road, Zero Dark Thirty).
Yet after all that build up, this becomes the Huntsman’s show. Blunt and Theron have maybe 5-6 scenes each. Given the context of this story, more could have been done with the women’s roles. Considering this film was specifically mentioned in the leaked studio emails discussing wage-gaps between male and female actors, more should have been done with these roles. Of all the examples of wasted potential in this film, the underutilization of the heroines was most prominent.
There were some things that I liked about this film. The quality banter between the dwarves did make me chuckle. I was glad to see a writer actually made some effort with this film. The special effects were also, as expected, amazing, especially the Goblin fight sequence, the mirror and the wildlife. Ravenna and Freya’s magic fight scenes were also stunning, but sadly underused. Elsa created ice monsters with her power, but Freya only created ice walls. All the actors gave commendable performances, even Hemsworth. Sadly, these performances were wasted on a half-baked dialogues and a subpar plot.
I can excuse the corniness. I can even excuse the absence of knowledge. However, I cannot excuse the absolute bullshit execution of this film. They were handed a blockbuster on a platter, and still screwed up. This film is too much of a letdown.