Review: The Huntsman: Winter's War
PLOT: Eric (Chris Hemsworth), the Huntsman, is sent on a mission by Snow White to destroy Queen Ravenna’s (Charlize Theron) magic mirror. Along the way, he runs afoul of the wife (Jessica Chastain) he thought was dead, who is being stalked by the evil Queen Freya (Emily Blunt) and her army of Huntsmen.
REVIEW: Let’s face it - nobody is too excited about a SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN sequel. Barely a hit, the movie was notable only for Charlize Theron’s scene-stealing turn as the evil Queen, and the interesting visuals cooked-up by director Rupert Sanders. Sanders and original star Kristen Stewart are absent from this sequel (not a prequel as originally reported), which looks to have cost much less than the lavish original and feels like a belated attempt to make a franchise where one is absent.
To make up for Stewart’s absence (Snow White is only briefly glimpsed from behind) a new heroine has been introduced by way of Jessica Chastain’s Sara, one of Eric’s fellow Huntsmen and the wife he mourned in the first film. After a brief prologue setting up their years of servitude at the hands of Ravenna’s ice-queen (literally) sister, Freya, the story teams the lovers by revealing her death was only an illusion, while she believes Eric abandoned her, leading to a briefly strained reunion.
As noted by several other critics, it’s tough to imagine exactly who the audience is here that the studio is trying to woo. The fans of the first film, many of whom were lured by Kristen Stewart’s first big post-TWILIGHT role, probably won’t care for the way their heroine is ignored. Chastain is an intriguing replacement, but like new villain Emily Blunt, she’s too contemporary a presence to really work in a fantasy. It’s unlikely the adult fans of either actress from movies like ZERO DARK THIRTY or SICARIO will flock to see them in a generic fantasy that’s nowhere near as good as what they can see every week by tuning into Game of Thrones.
If the movie at least had some of the first film’s style, that would be one thing, but director Cedric Nicholas-Troyan has made an utterly forgettable film, with too much unconvincing CGI and a curious lack of action. Sparks also fail to fly between Chastain and Hemsworth, the latter of whom makes for too generic a hero to really make his spin-off work, as everything interesting about him was resolved in the first film. The cumbersome Scottish accents don’t do either of them any favors, with notable chuckles from the preview audience the first time Hemsworth and Chastain spoke to each other (it’s noteworthy the kids playing their younger versions didn’t get the accent memo).
The romance between both actors never rises above a YA tween level, a shame considering both are in their thirties and a more mature love story could have given this some edge. In fact, the movie ditches the overall dark tone of the first, opting for much more comic relief. Even though only one of the seven dwarfs was brought back, Nick Frost and new dwarfs Rob Brydon (great as always), Sheridan Smith, and Alexandra Roach try mightily to give this some personality, but they have too little to work with.
In fact, the only cast-member who makes THE HUNTSMAN almost worth checking-out is Charlize Theron, who once again chews scenery with aplomb. While the explanation for her resurrection isn’t especially convincing, who cares? The only problem is that she has very little screen-time, with only the prologue and a part in the third act to do her thing. Theron and returning composer James Newton Howard give the film at least some of the energy the first (only so-so) film had, but neither can really justify the price of admission.
A friend put it best when she said THE HUNTSMAN is the kind of thing you might be inclined to watch all the way through on Netflix over the course of a dull Sunday afternoon, but it hardly merits the expense of a trip to the movie theater. This is one sequel that didn’t really need to be made, and is so bland it’s unlikely to generate any trips to the Snow White well (by this studio anyways).
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