Rarely is such a poorly written piece of Love-propoganda seen this far outside of February. At least it’s beautiful.
“The Huntsman” is a film with the odds already stacked against it. It was decided after 2012’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” that Kristen Stewart would not be returning in the title role. The studio still had sequel options for the rest of their top billed stars, and not wanting to pass on the franchise, decided to take it in a new direction. Like “The Bourne Legacy”, the lead character is mentioned a number of times in passing, but never appears in person. To help Frankenstein together this sans-White tale, two writers well-versed in churning out subpar money-making sequels were brought on board. Evan Spiliotopoulos was an obvious choice, known for animated Disney direct to video “classics” such as “The Jungle Book 2”, “Tarzan 2”, and “Cinderella III:A Twist in Time.” Joining him on the writer’s block is Craig Mazin, known for such witty flicks as Part 2 and 3 of “The Hangover” and the third and fourth “Scary Movie.” The producers obviously thought this was a recipe for success.
A third odd choice by the producers was to place Cedric Nicolas-Troyan in the director’s chair. Whether this was an inspired selection by them, or simply an effort to get someone cheap who was associated with the original production, we may never know. Regardless, the very best elements of “The Huntsman” can be attributed to Nicolas-Troyan. Prior to this film, he has only directed one thing: a 2011 short called “Carrot vs Ninja” (You can watch it HERE) Before that, he was a Second Unit Director and Oscar Nominated Visual Effects Supervisor for a number of well known films. His talent is clear on screen. Coupled with the amazing production design, “The Huntsman” is an incredibly good looking film.
Further beautifying this movie is the gorgeous ensemble cast. Chris Hemsworth is back as the now title character, Eric. Jessica Chastain joins the story as Sara, a Huntswoman who was Eric’s first love. Charlize Theron also returns as the evil witch Ravenna, but with shamefully short screentime. And finally Emily Blunt is introduced as the sister we never knew Ravenna had, Queen Freya. This amazing cast does their very best to deliver the cheesy lines they’ve been burdened with and pose gallantly during the collection of tired tropes that make up the majority of the film. Our heroes may be able to vanquish the villains in the story, but they are unable to defeat the greatest villain of all, the story itself.
Existing as both a prequel AND sequel to “Snow White”, the story starts off with one of Ravenna’s early regicides. With the words “And you thought it was just a game” she defeats her husband in a game of chess, which somehow takes his life as the chess piece bleeds. It seems like an odd way to kill a king and raises the question “what would have happened if he won that particular chess match?” Shortly thereafter we are introduced to her giddy, naive, sister Freya. She’s just discovered she’s become pregnant by her lover, a nobleman promised to another. When tragedy strikes, Freya’s frozen powers emerge and her heart turns to ice. (metaphorically speaking) As a tired sounding Liam Neeson narrates for us “If she could not raise a child, then in its place, she would raise an army.“ It’s this kind of twisted logic that seems to permeate the lead female characters. Their emotional states are so extreme, and at times unfounded, that it borders on sexism. It’s almost as if the male writers wrote their characters as a parody of the Lifetime channel, but the rest of the script isn’t smart enough to support that theory. We’re treated to such gems as the “rope trap in the forest”, “the conveniently placed bullet stopper”, the “executioner with a conscience”, the “simple misunderstanding that ended a relationship”, and a personal favorite “the unnecessary rope bridge” (among many others)
It’s a shame that so much talent and visual elegance is wasted on a throwaway story. As it stands now, “Winter’s War” is a far better film if the audio is left off.
Note: The title makes no sense. It clearly does not take place during Winter, and no one is named “Winter.”