THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR (USA/12A/114mins)
Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. Starring Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Chris Hemsworth, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith.
THE PLOT: Before the events of ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’, Ravenna (Charlize Theron) tried to coax the magic from her kinder sister Freya (Emily Blunt), without any luck. When the love of Freya’s life betrays her, her magical powers are revealed, and she sets out to make her own kingdom, training an army of child soldiers – or Huntsmen – two of whom are Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and his secret love Sara (Jessica Chastain). When things take a turn for the dark, Eric and Sara set out to stop Freya from gaining the ultimate evil power.
THE VERDICT: So there have been rumours of a sequel to’ Snow White and the Huntsman’ for many a moon, with Kristen Stewart first confirmed then unconfirmed to reprise her role – spoiler; Stewart is not among the cast of this film – and Frank Darabont signing on to direct the film, before passing the torch to first time director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. Although The Huntsman: Winter’s War is billed as being a sequel, magic and mystery intervene to make sure we get the sequel that we were promised.
Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as Eric the Huntsman, and does OK with the role to a point, but a tonal shift halfway through the film seriously undermines the character. Charlize Theron also returns, and eschews her shouty performance from the first film, opting instead to whisper all of her lines in a sexy ‘evil’ way that is fine, but does nothing to develop any sense of character. Emily Blunt takes on the role of Freya the Evil Ice Queen and channels her inner Elsa in setting herself up in an ice palace, but follows Theron’s lead in the whispering stakes, and the script takes her character on a journey that is muddled and unsatisfying. Jessica Chastain struggles with a Scottish accent throughout the film, playing a warrior with a heart, and elsewhere, Nick Frost turns up as comic relief, joined by Sheridan Smith, Rob Brydon and Alexandra Roach; none of whom really get a chance to do anything of note.
Screenwriters Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin try to carry on the film from the end of Snow White and the Huntsman, but they are in new territory here, and trying to introduce the ice queen into the story feels clunky and doesn’t always marry with the tone of the film. As well as this, adding in the elements of the original story means that the film is full of odd tonal shifts, and none of the characters are fleshed out enough to have us root for them.
In terms of direction, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan seems to equate evil with sexy whispering, meaning that two of Hollywood’s strongest actresses – Blunt and Theron – are reduced to playing characters that feel as though they have fallen out of a commercial for soft porn. As well as this, the accents in the film are a mess, the comedy poorly timed and, although the action is fast paced, it doesn’t get the audience’s heart rate up as we have no-one to root for. On the positive side, the costumes are simply glorious – particularly those of Blunt and Theron – but then this leaves Theron feeling as though she is back in her Dior ad campaign and Blunt sometimes struggles to act through the layers of jewellery she is saddled with.
In all, ‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’ struggles with many things; the film tries to be a prequel and a sequel, tries to be a drama fused with a comedy, tries to be an action film fused with a love story, and fails on all counts. The script is littered with terrible dialogue and this, combined with some dodgy accents, does the actors a disservice, leaving ‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’ a bloated, boring mess.
RATING: 1/5
Review by Brogen Hayes

The Huntsman: Winter's War
Review by Brogen Hayes
1.0A bloated mess
  • filmbuff2011

    In the 2012 battle for supremacy between two competing Snow White films, Snow White And The Huntsman emerged as the better and more interesting of the two. Darker, grittier and more intense than the saccharine-heavy Mirror, Mirror, it introduced the character of Eric AKA the Huntsman. Along with evil queen Ravenna, he was a more interesting character than Snow White. Now he gets his own film in the form of The Huntsman: Winter’s War.

    Before she came to blows with Snow White, Ravenna (Charlize Theron) ruled the land with an iron fist. Her less evil but still complicated sister Freya (Emily Blunt) has suffered a personal tragedy, which hardens her heart and her resolve. She transforms into the Ice Queen and builds her own ice fortress in the wilderness. Being a killjoy with a frozen heart, she also outlaws all forms of love – if she can’t have love, then nobody else can. Training warriors for battle since they were youths, she develops a special connection to two in particular – Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain). But a forbidden relationship between these two warriors will prove a test of Freya’s mettle (and metal). Separating the two, she casts them out into the wilderness. Many years later, their paths cross again and a quest to stop Freya from gaining Snow White’s magic mirror begins…

    The development of Winter’s War is intriguing. Originally intended as a direct sequel to Snow White And The Huntsman, plans to go in that direction were promptly iced when Kristen Stewart was caught in flagrante delicto with her director, Rupert Sanders. As punishment, neither has returned. Instead, the story has been re-focused to concentrate on Eric and his love/hate relationships with new characters Sara and Freya. There were rumours that Winter’s War was a prequel, but in reality it’s part prequel and part sequel.

    By moving away from the drippy Snow White and instead concentrating on the heroic Eric, Winter’s War moves a rung up the quality ladder. It makes narrative and logical sense, since Hemsworth was a commanding and charismatic presence in the previous film. Supporting Hemsworth are two strong performances from Blunt and Chastain – quality actors taking the material seriously. The scenes between Blunt and Theron spark off each other – nobody is truly 100% evil. Well, except Ravenna. Theron has great fun spitting out venomous lines with her snake-like performance. It’s just the right side of deadly, without resorting to pantomime theatrics.

    Having worked as the visual effects supervisor on the previous film, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan makes his feature debut here. It’s a reasonably confident debut, building on the groundwork already laid down. He sometimes overplays the humour, which mostly comes courtesy of dwarvish sidekicks played by Nick Frost and Rob Brydon. There’s also little attempt to try and bring Snow White into the story. Fair enough – there’s no Stewart, but the character is still a presence in the story and could do with a bit more narrative detail. She’s pretty much forgotten about by the end, or rather written out of the story. Still, The Huntsman: Winter’s War is an entertaining and well-acted prequel/sequel which justifies its existence. Not quite magic, but still a solid film. ***

  • emerb

    Neither Kristen Stewart’s Snow White nor her director Rupert Sanders return for “The Huntsman: Winter’s War”, a live-action fairytale and prequel to 2012’s “Snow White And The Huntsman”. Never fear because Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron are back and joined by Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain.

    The tale begins long before the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) ran into Snow White. She doesn’t like the idea of that her sister Freya (Emily
    Blunt) might fall in love and be happy with a new child so she cruelly scuppers the relationship, forcing Freya to flee the kingdom. She becomes an embittered Ice Queen, spending years in a remote wintry palace in the north raising a legion
    of deadly Huntsmen and women. She establishes a cruel ice-kingdom and is determined to use her army to wipe out romantic love everywhere. Despite the brutal conditions of her army, two of her warriors – Eric (Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) defy their queen by falling in love. However, when Freya discovers their passion for one another, she separates them with a wall of enchanted ice through which Eric sees Sara being killed by their friend and fellow soldier.

    Fast forward 7 years and Ravenna’s magic golden mirror has fallen into the hands of CGI goblins and Eric is dispatched to retrieve and destroy it. Assisting him in this will be Nion (Nick Frost), one of the seven-to-eight dwarves met in the earlier installment, and Gryff (Rob Brydon). Two female dwarves later join them Mrs. Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith) and Doreena (Alexandra Roach), which makes for some lively banter and entertaining comic relief.

    Overall the cast have fun with their parts. Blunt immerses herself in her icy witch which contrasts well with Theron’s fire and fury. Hemsworth carries off his hunky Eric with his customary fit, rugged swagger, even employing a rather bizarre Scottish accent. Chastain even throws herself into her archery with gusto.

    This film is beautifully crafted and the visual effects are highly impressive with attractive scenery, handsome palaces, clever CGI effects and wonderfully detailed and lavish costume designs for Ravenna and Freya in particular. It moves forward at a good pace with a lot of energy, some witty lines, decent action sequences and some lively comedy. This movie aims to appeal to “Game Of Thrones” fans alongside fans of the Disney cartoon universe and their live-action reboots.It largely succeeds and when you couple this with the A-list cast, I can see this movie doing well for Universal. Not for everybody but I was more than content to wallow in this magical fantasy world for 2 hours!