In 2012, a reimagining of the Snow White fairy tale hit theatres, courtesy of Universal Pictures, starring Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth, and Charlize Theron entitled, Snow White and the Huntsman. Suffice to say, this film found mild success (I hated it) and a bit of scandal with Kristen Stewart and the director. In 2016, Universal has found a way to bring back this reimagined fairy tale to the big screen in the form of a prequel/sequel, Huntsman: Winter’s War. Bringing back two thirds of the original big name stars, can this film be better than its predecessor without Snow White?
Huntsman: Winter’s War is a strange entry because it’s both a prequel that veers into a sequel. Charlize Theron returns as Queen Ravenna. Long before her demise in the original film, Ravenna has the magical mirror that declares that someone is fairer than she. That someone is in the womb of her sister Freya played by Emily Blunt. In an act of jealousy, deception, and betrayal, Ravenna conceives a plan to secure her vanity. This one act drives Freya away from Ravenna’s kingdom and unleashes a long suppressed power within Freya that leaves her and her heart cold. Freya builds her own ice palace and raises young boys and girls, she calls Huntsman, to reign terror on all that oppose her. The Huntsman needs will always be taken care of until death courtesy of Freya as long as they never fall in love. Unbeknownst to Freya, two of her best Huntsman, Eric (played by Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (played by Jessica Chastain) have defied her orders and have fallen in love.
Huntsman: Winter’s War is a fantasy film filled with great effects, solid performances, but no real magic. Chris Hemsworth is certainly a standout in this film. Hemsworth is not given enough credit for his leading man status (see his captivating turn in the film Rush). He’s charming, likable and has acting panache. Jessica Chastain is a beautiful young lady who is extremely talented and can play any role she’s given (see her stirring performance in the film Tree of Life). Jessica Chastain should’ve played Snow White in the original film because her chemistry with Chris would’ve carried over well here. Jessica’s portrayal as Sara is more a carbon copy of Merida from the Pixar film, Brave. These two have a playful chemistry here and one I enjoyed watching. These two are the anchor of this film. Emily Blunt’s performance as Freya was good, but felt too much like a live action version of Elsa from the Disney hit, Frozen. Charlize Theron, for as little screentime as she gets gives an impressively over the top performance as the evil queen. What’s a fairy tale without dwarfs? Nick Frost and Rob Brydon provide the appealing comedy relief here as the two dwarfs set out on a quest with the Huntsman.
Unfortunately, for all the things that are right about this movie, this film feels soulless. For all the effects and monsters and fairies the real magic of the writing and the story just doesn’t move the audience because both are just not that good. Although it may be a little more joyful than the original it suffers from an ere of grimness and a paper thin theme about “love conquering all” that just can’t hold up the film. I’m sure that Universal pictures will grace us with a third film to complete the “Huntsman Trilogy.”
If I was able to ask the magic mirror from this film a question, it would go something like this: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, Will the third film of this trilogy be the crappiest of all?”