Tweetable Takeaway: A dull story and bad dialogue makes #WintersWar a rotten apple of a movie. Tweet
It’s truly remarkable to see a movie filled with the talents of Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, and Chris Hemsworth that involves dwarves, evil queens, ice magic, and giant goblins manage to be completely forgettable. That’s exactly what THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR pulls off, against the odds. A dull plot, laughably bad dialogue, and poorly staged choreography all contribute to an utterly unmemorable experience. The four leads perform admirably, but when they’re reciting clichéd lines in boring situations, the acting amounts to a small island floating in a sea of mediocrity.
Before Snow White comes along and ruins everything for evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), she has some sister problems to deal with. In her quest to become the fairest of them all, Ravenna learns that her sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), is going to give birth to a girl, and should that child grow up, she will be the most beautiful girl the world has ever seen. She shouldn’t worry too much, because the father kills the baby girl, and understandably sets off Freya, who unleashes her latent magic ice powers.
What else is an ice queen to do but move north, capture a bunch of children, raise them to be warriors, ban love from her kingdom, and kill every king ruling within a 200 mile radius? The premise of adopting children to create a personal army has been done before, but never so clumsily as in Winter’s War. Instead of characters having realistic motivations for doing what they do, many decisions in Winter’s War are made so that the storyline fits with the first movie, Snow White and the Huntsman. What’s worse, Snow White (portrayed by Kristen Stewart) is largely absent from Winter’s War, despite still playing a large part in the movie’s plot. Snow White is mentioned multiple times by other characters (and there’s one awkward shot of her from behind that is clearly not Stewart) and again, it never feels organic. The whole film is one giant square peg being forced into a round hole, to make it work as both a prequel and a sequel. Because after Freya moves north to start her new kingdom, we take a huge jump forward in time, bypassing the events of Snow White and the Huntsman.
This jump ahead in time is another in a series of terrible choices for the movie’s story. Creating a story that exists entirely before the events of Snow White or wholly afterwards would have benefitted Winter’s War greatly. In any case, here we are. Somebody has stolen the magic mirror, and like a retired criminal getting pulled back in for one more heist, the titular huntsman, Eric (Chris Hemsworth) agrees to track down the mirror. Along the way, and perhaps indicative of the movie’s budget that was reduced from the first film, only two dwarves accompany Eric, rather than a full set of seven. Having Thor in the mix naturally leads to several fight scenes – but I challenge anyone to explain to me what, exactly, happens in each fight.
The skirmishes are shot so tightly and edited with so many cuts, tracking the who and the what in each sequence becomes an impossible task. Between fights, Eric meets up with Sara (Jessica Chastain), a fellow child-warrior raised by Freya. Sporting red hair, a Scottish accent, and excelling in archery, Sara is by all accounts the real-life Merida from Pixar’s Brave. Sara and Eric team up to go destroy Freya once and for all, but not before Freya resurrects Ravenna so Charlize Theron can be in the movie for ten minutes. We’re treated to a couple more fight scenes that are slightly easier to follow before the movie has the gall to not even give us a satisfying ending. Instead, the narrator (Liam Neeson, of all people) makes sure to tell the viewer that some evils don’t actually die. Bring on the next prequel/sequel.
There’s little to recommend in The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Those who were fans of the first film will find no Kristen Stewart, and very little of Charlize Theron hamming it up in the villainess role. Chris Hemsworth is still around, and he makes the film as enjoyable as he can. Same goes for Emily Blunt and Chastain. But without an engaging story, properly motivated characters, or action scenes with any clarity, there’s nothing about Winter’s War that’s particularly memorable.
I give The Huntsman: Winter’s War 2 missing Kristen Stewarts out of 5
Score: 2 out of 5
Wil Loper | Contributor