Arts movie review

An unnecessary addition to the Snow White and the Huntsman franchise

The Huntsman: Winter’s War is star-studded but scattered

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Freya (Emily Blunt) and Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) star in The Huntsman: Winter's War


The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Starring Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt

Rated PG-13

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Maybe you remember Snow White and the Huntsman from the tales of Kristen Stewart having an affair with the film’s director, Rupert Sanders. Or maybe you remember it as the live-action interpretation of the Snow White fairy tale. Or maybe you never saw it, in which case, that’s fine — you can just watch The Huntsman: Winter’s War, which manages to be both a prequel and a sequel, and then you can fill in the gaps to figure out what happened in the original movie.

But that probably wouldn’t work either, since Snow White does not even appear in The Huntsman: Winter’s War. It also wouldn’t work because the film is an incredibly scattered, confusing attempt at a fairy tale movie. Charlize Theron reprises her role as Snow White’s evil stepmother, Queen Ravenna, and Emily Blunt stars as Ravenna’s younger sister Freya, who turns into a cold-hearted ice queen after finding out that her lover murdered her baby. Think Elsa, but without the random bursts of singing. Freya forms her own kingdom, and gathers an army of children to “save” them from the ultimate sin: love.

Fast forward seven years, and the movie has suddenly turned into a sequel. Two of the army’s elite huntsmen, Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain), have fallen in love with each other, and they have escaped Freya’s icy powers to embark on a journey to find Snow White’s lost mirror.

At this point, the plot turns into an avalanche of random fantastical events. We find out that the mirror has the equivalent effect of Medusa’s head (except people are turned into murderers instead of stone), goblins somehow become involved, and we even see Freya riding around on a polar bear.

The dwarves, played by Rob Brydon and Nick Frost, provided some much-appreciated comic relief, but much of the humor was on the cruder side of what you would normally imagine for a fairy tale movie. It was strange to watch the film mix coarse humor into a sappy romantic plot, and to have violent fight scenes peppered between scenes of the sister queens discussing their powers (those felt like drawn-out staring contests in comparison).

While the plot certainly has its issues, the set design and costuming manage to shine throughout. The luscious green fields of the Scottish lands starkly contrast the frigid ice palace of Freya’s kingdom. Ravenna’s black and gold dress shimmers and flows as beautifully as Charlize Theron’s silky voice, while Emily Blunt’s Freya transforms into a live-action version of Elsa with white hair, a stunningly icy dress, and a frozen sense of emotion.

Overall, The Huntsman: Winter’s War is entertaining at best. The actors and actresses have fine performances, and the humor is snarky enough to elicit a few laughs. But the plot jumps around from place to place and time to time, leaving holes as huge as the clichés they managed to squeeze into this two hour film.