There’s a scene in The Huntsman: Winter’s War where the titular character played by Chris Hemsworth lies on the ground, looking beat, chuckling ‘this is the worst idea ever’. For the audience watching the film it’s not hard to grasp the meta irony of that line.
Why there’s a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, a movie that didn’t do too well both critically and commercially, is beyond comprehension. Like the Lord, sometimes Hollywood works in mysterious ways, so it’s best to go with the flow. The previous movie had some fairly interesting visual effects, so one would expect at least a visual spectacle in The Huntsman: Winter's War, especially since it’s directed by Cedric Nicolas Troyan who was responsible for the first film’s CGI.
Unfortunately this film is a snoozy mess that wastes the resources of its huge star cast.
Winter's War plays out as the prequel of the first film, and keeping in line with the Star Wars and Hobbit movies, the decision to go the prequel route hurts the film in the worst possible manner.
This time we’re introduced to Princess Freya (Emily Blunt) who is having an affair with the Duke of Blackwood (Colin Morgan) and is also carrying a child. Her sister Ravenna (Charlize Theron) gets jealous when her Magic Mirror tells her that Freya’s child would eventually become more beautiful than her. Ravenna murders the child and turns Freya into a monster who emits ice, lives alone in an ice castle and has a general hatred for everyone – much like Elsa in Frozen. A crazed Freya also kidnaps kids and turns them into warriors, but two of the warriors Eric the Huntsman (Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) fall in love and plan to escape and revolt.
The problem isn’t that the film liberally borrows elements from Frozen, Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings, but that it does so without making even a little bit of an effort to keep the audience engaged.
The first film’s fault was the storytelling and the second film had to amp up the story, and not the visuals. Winter’s War predictably spends more time in rendering bigger scale CGI and making the background score louder, and the story department remains defunct. It becomes tiresome to see actors of this caliber awkwardly walking in the green screen chambers, mouthing terrible dialogue and often hamming it up.
The other problem is that the only people who would see this film are those who saw the earlier film. And since the fates of The Huntsman, his lover, Ravenna, and her sister are all already known to the audience, it becomes quite stupid for this film to try and endanger the characters. So every time the hero comes close to danger there’s no reason to react – you know he lived to appear in the next film and hung out with Snow White.
In the face of predictability some humor is generally beneficial but unfortunately the film plays out in an off-puttingly serious tone, and when Hemsworth makes the occasional joke it feels like he knows he’s doing a terrible movie for the sake of contractual obligation.
The only entertaining bit about this whole franchise still remains the tabloid expose of Kristen Stewart having an affair with the impeached director of the previous movie. And even she has cleverly moved on from this boring sequel to starring in critically films of Oliver Assayas.