The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016)

The_Huntsman_–_Winter's_War_posterRelease Date: April 22, 2016
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Nick Frost, Sam Claflin
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Studio: Perfect World Picture, Roth Films
Distributor: Universal Pictures
Genre(s): Fantasy, Adventure
Rating: ★★★½☆☆
Review Spoilers: Low

Based on characters by Evan Daugherty

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Fairytales have been going through a revival, with the popularity of Frozen, the reimagining of classic fairy tales in live-action, even with ABC’s Once Upon a Time fairytale amalgamation, we love taking well-loved stories and remaking them with more CGI and more drama for the audience. In a sense, fairytale movies are like the half-sister of comic book movies. Both are heavily genre and twenty years ago even the most well-made movie would have been a flop.

While Disney rises to the forefront within both genres, this doesn’t stop the other guys from making their own movies. The Huntsman brings back the characters created by Evan Daugherty in his film, Snow White and the Huntsman (2012). The 2012 film followed a visual style that we saw repeated in this prequel-sequel, and despite any short comings of both of the films, the CGI and visual palette for the movies are exquisite. They very much exude all the best parts of the genre’s aesthetic, with breath taking scenery, mesmerizing magic, and flawless costume design.

Snow White and the Huntsman wasn’t exactly a successful film. It was uneven in many ways, with a main character who often melted into the background and supporting characters that delivered a stronger performance. The Huntsman comes in to fill some of the gaps left after the 2012 film, though it significantly lacks the actual appearance of Snow White, herself. After a scandal involving Snow White‘s director Rupert Sanders and actress Kristen Stewart, who played the eponymous characer, the direct sequel for the first film crumpled. Instead, the spin-off decided to focus on the huntsman’s character instead.

Now, as a long time lover of historical romance novels and angsty melodrama, and a small-time fairy tale and folklore scholar, I want to say that a lot of the flack that this film gets is from critics who spend their lives only appreciating Oscar award winning film types. And no matter what people want to say, films that win those kinds of awards are a certain type of movie. Sure, someone will shoot it a different way, or the story might be a little different, but much like books of different genres, not all movies can be reviewed the same way.

[Screen Daily]
[Screen Daily]
For what it is, and what it’s supposed to do, The Huntsman was beautifully enjoyable. While the story might appear convoluted (and nearly everyone dies at least once in the movie), it hits the spot, somehow. The actors actually seem like they’re having fun. Jessica Chastain’s Sara and Chris Hemsworth’s Eric actually have good chemistry together (despite their horrendously awkward Scottish accents), as do not-Elsa and not-Anna in the form of Emily Blunt’s Ice Queen Freya and Charlize Theron’s Evil Queen Ravenna.

Theron goes back to the same over-dramatics that I thought were overkill in the original film, but it works better in The Huntsman. Blunt is cold and distant, but still pulls off some measure of dimension in a pretty simple character. Sara and Eric’s tragic love story is angsty, absurd, and riddled with plot twists, but it works? Their story book ends the original film, doubling as a prequel and a sequel. It’s just enjoyable to watch the two physically fight off their foes and face off against one another in their lover’s quarrel.

Despite the dark parts of the story, like child soldiers and a gold mirror that drives you insane, there’s also a large amount of humor. It lightens the story significantly. Hemsworth plays off of the dwarves, Nick Frost’s Nion and Rob Brydon’s Gryff. Their lines add a dash of humor that always seems to hit, which is surprising. They also find love with lady dwarves, Sheridan Smith’s Bromwyn and Alexandra Roach’s Doreen. Basically all the protagonists get a happily-ever-after too.

Final Thoughts: Fairytale lovers, angsty romance novel lovers, Chris Hemsworth lovers, watch The Huntsman: Winter’s War. It’s far from the drab snorefest the critics are making it out to be, all you have to do to enjoy it is walk in with a touch less arrogance than them and a bit more open-mindedness.

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