The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016)

  • Time: 107 min
  • Genre: Action | Adventure | Drama
  • Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
  • Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain


As a war between rival queen sisters Ravenna and Freya escalates, Eric and fellow warrior Sara, members of the Huntsmen army raised to protect Freya, try to conceal their forbidden love as they combat Ravenna’s wicked intentions.


  • One could well argue that The Huntsman: Winter’s War is more entertaining than its predecessor, Snow White and the Huntsman. It thrives in pleasantries where the first film sated itself on grime and grittiness. Yet Snow White and the Huntsman was a far more substantial reworking of the fairy tale, exploring how the obsession with the power of youth and beauty can warp and wither the soul. Snow White herself was the least interesting character – and not necessarily because Kristen Stewart’s characteristically saturnine nature jarred. Charlize Theron’s maleficent Queen Ravenna was a masterwork in how camp could blend with actual characterisation.

    Theron dominated Snow White and the Hunstman, but coming a close second was Chris Hemsworth as the Hunstman himself. At the time, Hemsworth was becoming famed as Thor and his role as the huntsman Eric signaled that there was something more to him than simply brawn. It’s only fitting that The Huntsman: Winter’s War, which serves as both prequel and sequel, should sharpen its focus on its two best assets. The story, or stories, being told here, however, feel simultaneously second-rate, derivative, incomplete, insubstantial, and instantly forgettable. If the film works, and it often does despite its flaws, it’s due to its actors and most especially a British firecracker named Sheridan Smith.

    “There is another story, one that comes before happily ever after,” an unnecessarily employed narrator drones at the start. Viewers are reintroduced to the scheming Ravenna as she kills the latest monarch foolish enough to fall sway to her beauty and cunning. Her younger sister Freya (Emily Blunt) is far more kindhearted in comparison; she dreams of a life with a young Duke (Colin Morgan), whose child she carries. Tragedy befalls Freya, causing her icy magical powers to emerge. Consumed by grief, she retreats to her own frozen kingdom where she trains kidnapped children to become ruthless soldiers. “Do not love,” she orders them. Love is a lie, love does not conquer all. Isn’t she living proof of that?

    Naturally, two of those children transgress when they reach adulthood. Eric and Sara (Jessica Chastain) profess their love for one another but are cruelly thwarted from having a life together by Freya, whose wall of enchanted ice separates the lovers. Eric witnesses Sara’s death – thus his identification of himself as a widower in the first film – and is shocked to see her alive and well seven years later whilst he is on a quest to find Ravenna’s destructive golden mirror before Freya can get her frosty hands upon it.

    Screenwriters Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin can’t quite balance their two competing narratives. Eric and Sara’s tale proves the weaker of the two as, despite their best efforts and solid individual performances, Hemsworth and Chastain simply do not spark as a couple. The mission to track down the mirror is near ponderous until lady-dwarf Mrs. Bromwyn (Smith) appears, who makes no secret of her yearning to jump Eric’s bones when not trading barbs with Gryff (Rob Brydon), the half-brother of Nion (Nick Frost), who was one of the dwarves who assisted Snow White in the earlier film. Smith is one of the leading lights of British television, and her powerhouse presence enlivens the proceedings.

    Freya and Ravenna’s sibling rivalry should have taken center stage. It’s a far more absorbing relationship than the one between Eric and Sara, and continues the franchise’s depiction of complex female dynamics. Blunt and Theron bring touches of nuance to their roles, and there is a thrill to be had when Elsa, sorry, Freya – stands up to her overpowering older sister. Blunt and Theron are also garbed in Colleen Atwood’s intricately detailed creations; Freya’s gowns make sounds like cracking ice whilst Ravenna’s are frequently a symphony of spiderwebbed designs and armoured feathers. The costumes are beautifully complemented by Luca Vannella’s makeup and hair designs; Theron’s gold-flecked and ornately braided appearance in the CGI-laden finale is particularly stunning.

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  • (RATING: ☆☆½ out of 5)


    IN BRIEF: Sluggish and dull, the film is not the fairest of them all.
    GRADE: C

    SYNOPSIS: This prequel tells the story of the huntsman, minus Snow White, and his saga to find true love and live happily ever after. Well, it is a fairy tale. Kinda.

    JIM’S REVIEW: There is no happily ever after for the moviegoer who slogs through this prequel/sequel, The Huntsman: Winter’s War. One waits eagerly again to witness Charlize Theron’s witchy performance as the evil queen, Ravenna, and the stand-out CGI that was the saving grace of the earlier film, but there is less of both in this reincarnation. At least, Colleen Atwood’s spell-binding costumes still have a sense of wit and splendor and firmly holds one’s interest.

    In this revisionist version, Snow White is a mere walk-on, (or should I say a cry-on). Seen from the back by an extra substituting for Kristin Stewart, who wisely lost her invitation to attend this bawl, our regal lady laments the possible loss of her queendom and her valued mentor of a mirror. This brings our title character (Chris Hemsworth) front and center. On his journey to retrieve the mirror and fight the evil forces that dare to invade her land, we get the backstory of his life.

    Abducted as a child by Ravanna’s sister, the Ice Queen (Emily Blunt), and forced to fight in her army, the huntsman falls in love with an Irish lass (Jessica Chastain) that wants more than anything to impersonate from Disney’s Brave. Their attraction becomes a problem for the couple as love is verbotten from this empire. Tragedy befalls the lovers as is the case in all fairy tales. Fast forward to seven years later. Our hunky woodsman is requested to help his queen. So, with two dwarves in tow, Gryff (Rob Brydon) and Nion (Nick Frost), the latter seeming to be channel Ricky Gervasis comedy act without the laughs, they are off to battle anyone who gets in their way.

    The various perils they face aren’t anyway near compelling and the action scenes are not well staged. who served as visual effects supervisor in the last outing takes over the director’s reins and does an adequate job. He keeps the story moving forward, without much panache, and the film looks nice. Production values are uniformly strong. In fact, the CGI work is very effective in the film’s climactic scene, although it lacks polish throughout. (In comparison, the original film, Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), had a wonderful surreal edginess that this film rarely achieves.)

    However, the main area of displeasure is the woeful script by that relies on voiceover narration to explain the exposition and has the underdeveloped characters scrambling for their own identities. One just doesn’t care about the film’s totally predictable plot or the dilemmas that these one-note characters must overcome.

    The actors add little to these sketchy roles. Ms. Theron has more of a supporting role here and is in dire need of more screen time to resuscitate the film before it flatlines. Mr. Hemsworth, as the Huntsman, is still in search of a character. He plays him more as a Gaston second-string buffoon rather than a first-rate real hero. Ms Blunt is his worthy adversary but her character is far too restrained and lacks genuine menace. She plays her role like a cartoon version of Elsa in Frozen, which is the writers’ main inspiration I suppose. Jessica Chastain’s talents are wasted in this token women empowerment heroine, . She’s a spitfire, a redhead babe with determination and verve. Alright, we get it. Now move on.

    The Huntsman: Winter’s War is more of the same with less of the excitement as the original, which, come to think about it, wasn’t that thrilling either. What this film lacks in originality is just that.

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  • The Brother’s Grim fairytale of Snow White seemed to be the popular story to retell for the year 2012. Two polar interpretations of the story had been made that same year. Mirror Mirror (2012) was the more lighthearted take while Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) went the opposite route with darker and edgier visuals. Of the two, the most successful was the movie that starred Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron. The production itself looked much more epic in scope, had bigger star power and had a different story to tell. After the success of the film, production began to role for the sequel. However troubles emerged when Stewart did not return as Snow White. Once that happened, the momentum that the studio had gained ended up getting stuck in development. For a while the studio went through a number of directors, including Frank Darabont the guy who made The Green Mile (1999) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Eventually the ball started rolling again and this is the end result, which could’ve been worse.

    Directing duties for this movie were given to Cedric Nicolas-Troyan in his debut. For most of his career Troyan has been a visual effects artist for movies like The Ring (2002), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006). He also has some partial directing experience as a second unit director to Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and Maleficent (2014). Originally stated to be a prequel to Snow White and the Hunstman (2012), the story is actually a prequel and a sequel, in which case there is no word to categorize this whatsoever. First the story explains as to how Eric the Hunstman (Chris Hemsworth) became what he was by the time Snow White and the Hunstman (2012) occurred. Audiences will also learn that he has a wife named Sara (Jessica Chastain). Together they lived under the rule of Freya (Emily Blunt), an Ice Queen and sister of Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Freya believes all children should be torn from their families and made into huntsmen after the loss of her child.

    When Freya learns that Sara and Eric are in love, she separates them leading Eric to the events of the prior movie. Then the story begins its sequel where Eric seeks to destroy Freya. Written by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin, this duo’s work is acceptable to some degree. Spiliotopoulos is known for writing more Disney movies like The Jungle Book 2(2003) and The Lion King 1 1/2 (2004). Mazin has done more comedies like Scary Movie 3(2003) and Scary Movie 4 (2006). What might amaze the most critical of viewers is that for once the script was written with keeping the missing main characters in mind. Surely Kristen Stewart does not show up on screen once but she is at least referenced verbally and that’s all films like these ask for. A simple reference. Along with that is the fact that the new characters help create a bit of depth to the original characters. That’s always good to see. However this does not excuse the other problems that arise throughout this movie.

    The fact that certain characters return (major or minor) and others don’t doesn’t make a lot of sense. There’s no clear reason given from these individuals as to why they return other than stating vague answers. There’s also hazy motivations when it comes to Freya. Freya creates an army of huntsmen warriors to “free” children from their lives and train them as her new army. What exactly is she trying to achieve? Sooner or later there will be no areas to concur. For actors and the roles they play all seem to be enjoying their part. Hemsworth and Chastain have okay chemistry together. Blunt and Theron look like they could be sisters too, although Theron looks to be loving her part the most. There’s also appearances from Sam Caflin as Prince William and Nick Frost as Nion the dwarf. The new supporting roles added to the cast are more dwarfs played by Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach. All of which do not add any context to the story itself and more for just comic relief, which is okay.

    With the director of this film being more experienced in the visual effects department, no doubt would the CGI look decent here. There’s a barely a shot here that looks out of place or too obvious to be fake. The liquid gold mirror is still an awesome effect even though it completely references the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991). The same could also be said for Freya’s ice powers, she may be a villain but she makes things look very pretty. The cinematography goes hand-in-hand thanks to Phedon Papamichael. Papamicheal has had his fair share of cinematic films and it shows. The camerawork for the most part is stable and has plenty of panning wide shots for the audience to get a complete view of the scenery. Working the musical score was James Newton Howard who also worked on the music to Snow White and the Huntsman (2012). Strangely enough Howard doesn’t make a new theme for Freya or Eric the huntsman yet keeps Ravenna’s memorable theme in tact. And if there was a main theme, it wasn’t that recognizable. Come on Howard.

    Played like a double-edged sword, this film acts as a prequel and a sequel to that of Snow White and the Huntsman (2012). It may not be as great as the first entry, which isn’t surprising but it does make significant connections to the first without dropping everything. It still may lack clarity on certain parts but the action, effects, camerawork and music still entertain.

    Points Earned –> 6:10

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