The Huntsman: Winter’s War is so bad it breezes past the potential for “so bad it’s good” enjoyment and straight into boring, incoherent territory. Whereas the film seems to aspire to an anti-Frozen narrative by focusing on two sisters who are very powerful and very wicked, its real achievement is in failing to clear even the very low standards audiences were likely to hold it to. I went for the costumes, and all I really got from the experience was an excuse to eat Sour Patch Kids and an exercise in resisting the temptation to check my email.
As both a prequel and a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, the film suffers from a severe lack of direction. The film opens on the evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and her plain, but sweet sister, Freya (Emily Blunt). Drawing on every stereotype available, Ravenna awakens Freya’s magic powers by breaking her heart and killing her child. Naturally, Freya turns into an ice queen and captures children from all over her kingdom, freeing them from the bonds of love and family, and training them to be her army so she can conquer the world. She thinks that she is doing them a favor. That nearly every major character is in some way traumatized is the crutch the film leans on. People act irrationally because they are either heartbroken or evil. The only main characters who do not follow this rule are dwarfs, and therefore comedic relief. It is bad.
Anyway, fast-forward a bunch of years and the film switches from prequel mode to sequel mode, as Ravenna has been defeated and Snow White is now queen. Unfortunately, her mirror remains and it has a habit of making people kill each other in order to prevent itself from getting locked up in a sanctuary. The king asks The Huntsman/Eric (Chris Hemsworth) to track the mirror down and make sure it gets locked up. At this point, we know that Eric was the best of Freya’s soldiers and escaped from her kingdom after she thwarted his attempt to run off with the other best solider, his wife Sara (Jessica Chastain), killing her in the process. On the road with his sidekicks Nion (Nick Frost) and Gryff (Rob Brydon), he discovers that (surprise!) Sara is not dead, but she is really mad that he left without her. Insert bitter wife jokes. The plot meanders along with the addition of love-interest dwarfs, Mrs. Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith) and Doreena (Alexandra Roach) until we discover that (spoiler alert) Sara’s still working for Freya and (surprise!) Ravenna is not dead either. From there, the story peters out with some fashion and some CGI battles, and a cliched conclusion about love conquering all.
The acting in this film looks like an attempt to cover for the haphazard plotting. In spite of how stupid I found this movie, I will commend Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt for really committing to their roles. Their over-the-top performances enhance the special effects allotted to their characters and almost made me forget how ridiculous the whole story was, until the end when everyone seems to be phoning it in. Jessica Chastain, an otherwise wonderful actress, barely shows up for much of the film, and it is not surprising considering that she was contractually obligated to be there. I doubt she really wanted to be in Winter’s War, unless it was to kiss Chris Hemsworth.
The only part of this film that I legitimately enjoyed was the costuming and makeup. The dresses worn by Ravenna and Freya are pretty spectacular and they merge with the special effects in a form of fancy eye-candy. Reportedly, Blunt’s makeup initially took two hours to apply, and many of her scenes could pass for Lancome advertisements. The hair and makeup on Mrs. Bromwyn were my favorite, accentuating the fact that her character is the only truly charming part of the film, but just barely.
Normally, when a movie is this bad, I might suggest that it is redeemable enough to justify renting it on a lazy weekend. The Huntsman: Winter’s War does not even clear that threshold. If you have seen the trailer, you have seen enough. This movie is truly terrible. 1/5 stars.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War runs 114 minutes and is rated PG-13. It was written by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin, and directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan.
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