The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Today we will be exploring the unnecessary sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman. With a dismal rating among critics (a merely 17% on Rotten Tomatoes), The Huntsman: Winter’s War failed to impress at the box office. The Rolling Stone called it a mediocre re-hash of Disney’s Frozen. Other critics cited that the film both made them question their love of Chris Hemsworth and was a complete waste of time… Is the film really that bad? Well, Yes and No.

Film Synopsis:
The film serves as both a prequel and sequel to Snow White and Huntsman. The film opens with Liam Neeson’s voice-over narration, explaining to the viewer that the story they are about to see takes place before Snow White defeated the Ravenna, the evil queen. Before marrying and murdering Snow White’s father, Ravenna traveled through the lands- seducing other kings and killing them to gain power with the help of the dark magic held within the mirror. Ravenna, the viewer discovers, has a sister named Freya. What happened to Ravenna’s brother – who knows; the movie never mentions him.

Freya gives birth to a daughter whom Ravenna murders, causing her to become the Ice Queen. Freya takes children and trains them to become her warriors – enter the infamous Huntsman, Eric. Eric falls in love with another one of Freya’s soldiers, Sara. The lovers are discovered, and Sara is seemingly killed. Flash-Forward seven years, the Evil Queen has been defeated, but the mirror is stolen. The Huntsman is sent to retrieve the mirror and comes across Sara on his travels – learning that she, in fact, is not dead; their search for the mirror puts them in Freya’s cross-hairs. Eric and Sara must fight Freya and Ravenna who is miraculously returned to life by the mirror.

The Good:
There isn’t much good about this film. True, the visuals are stunning, though obviously computer generated, and while the cast is top-notch, no one seems to have their heart in this film. Ravenna and the Huntsman are reduced to caricatures of their former selves; their performances are dull and static. Sara, the new edition, is the stereotypical tough girl who is lethal with a bow and afraid to fall back in love with her husband (I say husband loosely since their marriage is merely the by-product of Sara giving Eric a necklace).

Perhaps, the best thing about this film is Emily Blunt’s portrayal of the Ice Queen. She is the only character with a definable arch, and her pain at losing a child and being betrayed by her sister is the only emotion that feels organic in this film. Every other emotional conflict such as Eric and Sara’s love story along with Ravenna’s resurrection feels forced and contrived. Blunt’s posed gestures and rigid acting style fit well with her character’s icy facade. Plus, her costume and make-up are visually rich and a pleasure to look at. However, Blunt still couldn’t save this movie.

The Bad:
Where to start? The film is all over the place. The fact that film is both a prequel and a sequel disrupts the narrative while making the plot feel scattered and forced. The film’s constant use of voice-over narration makes the viewer feel like a child, needing a higher authority to explain each set of events. There is simply too much information stuffed into this film; the rise of the Ice Queen, the backstory of the Huntsman, and the resurrection of the Evil Queen (which makes no sense at all) leave the viewer wondering which set of events is actually important. Sadly, it seems like the answer is none of them. The film tries to be equal in its allotment of screen time, but none of the characters really hold the viewer’s interest. Also, the overstuffed plot leads to issues with tone, oscillating between comedy to melodrama to an action film, and then back again.

Ultimately, the film is trying to be several things at one: it’s a love story, it’s the origin of a villain, it’s a redemptive story and an action film. I didn’t hate this film, but I didn’t enjoy it either. The movie is just very boring. I yawned throughout the entire film.  When I left the theater, I just felt ‘meh’ about the whole thing. It’s not memorable at all. I can’t help but feel disappointed. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t expect the film to be great, but the movie did put forth an interesting alternative to the plot that we were given.

The idea that Ravenna is trapped in the mirror and slowly driving Snow White crazy would have made a much more interesting film – focusing on Snow White’s fragmented psyche and watching her possibly become just like the Evil Queen would have been a great way to turn this tired old fairy-tale into something new. Huh, maybe I should be a screenwriter. Unfortunately, due to the controversy caused by Kristen Stewart (which I won’t get into, you can google it if you are curious) ensures that Snow White is mentioned only by name.

The Verdict: Save Your Money

I wouldn’t pay to see this film even on Redbox. If it was playing on basic cable when I was studying or writing a research paper, maybe I would leave it on as background noise. If you don’t see it, you’re not missing anything.

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