The 400-Word Review - The Huntsman: Winter's War
By Sean Collier
April 25, 2016
The path to The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a bit circuitous. It’s a story about a fairy tale character largely borrowed from other fairy tales, presented as the unrelated sequel to a movie about an entirely different character who appears only momentarily in this film.
That’s a long way to go for a scrap of name recognition based on a previous film that didn’t set the world on fire. 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman holds only the distinction of being the best movie about Snow White to be released that year — Mirror Mirror was worse — and in no way called for a continued franchise.
Yet here we are, even without Snow White herself; she’s in one shot, brought near madness by the evil influence of the magic mirror. Instead, we’re here to follow the exploits of that huntsman, played once again by Chris Hemsworth, as he is separated from the love of his life, a fellow warrior named Sara (Jessica Chastain).
So how do we get there? First, the evil queen (Charlize Theron, once again the highlight of the film) has a sister — who didn’t appear in the first movie — by the name of Freya (Emily Blunt). Freya was dealt a great blow by a young lover and came to believe that the very concept of love is a con; somehow, this activated magical ice powers in her, and she built a frosty castle in which to mourn.
Why yes, that is the plot of Frozen. Moving on.
Freya began conquering nearby villages and taking their children as her personal army. Her two best students — the huntsman and Sara — fell in love, though, in defiance of her one imperative.
Then there’s a flash-forward, and several unlikely returns (none of which are Snow White) and dwarves. (Or rather, actors of average height digitally rendered as dwarves, an unsavory decision from the original film which returns here.)
Here’s the crazy part: It’s actually not a bad movie. When you shed the convoluted setup and the jumping-jacks from the plot, The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a perfectly watchable fantasy yarn that hits its notes. And with three excellent performances by Theron, Blunt and Chastain, it’s easy to offer a lukewarm endorsement; it’s a significant improvement on the first film and a pleasant enough diversion. It’s nothing you need to see, but it’s a fine enough film.
My Rating: 6/10
Sean Collier is the Associate Editor of Pittsburgh Magazine and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. Read more from Sean at pittsburghmagazine.com/afterdark