The Huntsman: Winter’s War – Review


Yes, it’s the prequel to 2012’s Snow White and The Huntsman and really, was anyone asking for this! OK the film did very well surprisingly at the Box Office, especially considering that year there were 6 Snow White movies out if you included all the low budget studios, but really that year it was a battle between Snow White and the Huntsman and Mirror Mirror, which at least Snow White won. I actually watched Snow White and the Huntsman before going to see this movie and to be honest it’s not as bad as I remembered it to be. A re-watch has softened my feelings toward it, I didn’t hate it on first watching it but I thought it was rather dull and it had an unnecessary epicness to it, which I still wouldn’t deny is a problem. I also think the film had incredibly bad pacing issues, however it was a much better movie than Mirror Mirror. This film, which has been billed as a prequel to establish more of the Huntsman’s character was rather hyped though I was slightly concerned about how good it could possibly be. The biggest change in the film is that now we have a new director, Cedric Nicholas-Troyan who was a second unit director on the previous film and Disney’s Malificent, however, he has never directed a feature film prior to this. He has directed a short film but that’s about it. Studios seem to be really trusting him right now because he has been given the keys to direct the upcoming Highlander movie and really, if anyone is worried about a Highlander remake, just remember this franchise has been downhill since the first movie, how much more damage could possibly be done. Another reason to be concerned about this movie though, is it was not screened for critics, which meant, they didn’t get to see it before us, so there were no reviews released prior to its release, as I stated in my review of “The Visit”, be very cautious if you can’t read a review of a film prior to its release date. Also, this film is a prequel and I am not really a fan of prequels in general, but I will probably get more into that later in my review. Does the Huntsman shed new light on the character, or is it an unnecessary extra designed to capitalise from the popularity of the first film?

Starting 7 years before the events of Snow White and The Huntsman, Huntsman, Eric, (played by Chris Hemsworth) falls in love with his childhood sweetheart and fellow Huntsman Sara (played by Jessica Chastain), however Ice Queen Freya (played by Emily Blunt), who is the sister of the previous film’s villain Ravina (played by Charlize Theron) has been training Huntsman as her army and the army have decreed that none are to fall in love after her lover killed their child. After finding this out she instructs Huntsman to kill Sara and the Huntsman is thrown in a river to die. The film then cuts to 7 years later, taking place shortly after the events of Snow White and the Huntsman where the magic mirror has gone missing after Snow White failed to destroy it and The Huntsman has been commissioned to get it back along with the help of his two dwarf friends, Nion and Gryff, (played by Nick Frost and Rob Brydon). I will say, it’s half necessary to have seen Snow White and the Huntsman but this is slightly newcomer friendly and this tells a rather different story, for example, Snow White doesn’t actually appear on camera throughout the entire film because Kristen Stewart wasn’t willing to come back to the franchise after what happened with the previous director.

The Huntsman actually starts out rather ok, it has a decent running plot and has a decent cast and is somewhat entertaining, however, it doesn’t stay that way throughout the entire film. The cracks really begin to show early on when Jessica Chastain’s Sara becomes a part of the plot again having been revealed that her death was merely an illusion and I know that’s a minor spoiler, but to be fair, anyone who has seen the trailers will know that she is in the movie because the trailer gives away way too much about this movie. There are absolutely little or no surprises and I really recommend you trying to not see the trailer before going to see the film! When Jessica Chastain first comes back, that is when the cracks in the film really begin to show and this is made more and more evident as time goes on. One of the biggest casualties of this is Emily Blunt who is playing the best character in the film. Freya is actually a really good villain, she has a good back story, she has decent revelations of her plan and is a very relatable villain, which is why it’s such a shame that in the middle portion of the film she is a bit of a misnomer bordering on being almost entirely absent and in the last portion of the film she is unnecessary after she successfully revives Ravina which again would have been more of a spoiler if the footage of her hadn’t been revealed in the trailer!! There are a couple of other plot turns that the film takes in the middle portion of the film that really don’t work and that’s a problem for a lot of reasons. For a start, the twist are not properly foreshadowed so there is literally no way to predict that some of these will happen and they feel really poorly thought out and a couple of them feel like they are designed to keep the plot dragging along a bit more than it already is. This is because the film is a lot shorter and as a result has to cram a lot of ideas in a short space of time and doesn’t know how to do half of them. While this film was passable for the fist 30 minutes, though it did have a few technical errors, the last 30 minutes is where the film completely nose dives and this is really down to the fact that we shift villains and everything feels completely pointless because there is so much that has been tried to be crammed in there nothing feels like it gets a proper resolution and if it does it feels rather forced. There are also a lot of things that we are supposed to just accept, for example if all these children that Eric and Sara have been capturing from the same area, then why is it that they only have Scottish accents? Also, where was Snow White taking the mirror to be destroyed, why couldn’t it have been done in her own city walls? There are a lot of these in here and not all of them receive proper resolutions. There are also a lot of characters that are missing with no explanation. Nick Frost’s character is the only dwarf that comes from the previous film and his brother has been completely written in there plus we now have two female dwarfs who are all designed to be comic relief and while they are good comic relief they do seem to outstay their welcome, because their routines go on a little too long and have a tendency to repeat themselves. Their story arcs aren’t really that interesting and I think are more designed to appeal to the women in the audience more than the men. If it wasn’t for Jessica Chastain being in this film The Huntsman would feel almost entirely unnecessary. There is a lot more going on in this film but I really think you need to experience it but if I had to go back to one thing, it’s the film’s climax, it feels really rushed and it also shows off the worst parts of the film, especially considering that the final plot twists of the film are so obvious that it feels like a train has come at you and hit you with them.

There are a lot of positive points to The Huntsman. It is actually an engaging plot at times and while the comic relief does outstay its welcome, it is very funny, that’s to be expected when you have actors like Nick Frost, Rob Brydon and Sheridan Smith. This film does need to be longer though and I think there will be an extended cut when the DVD is released like there was with Snow White and The Huntsman. It is necessary because these plot points need a lot more elaboration. I at least like the fact that they haven’t tried to turn this into an epic, that was one of my big problems with Snow White and The Huntsman, there is no reason for it to be an epic, it fits in with the story that it was, but I don’t understand then why it needs to be a Snow White story, just tell your own story. The film’s greatest strengths is that it does ignore this for a large part and I think this will resonate well with some audiences. The last film’s plot felt like it was aiming at both the guys and the girls this time feels a lot more drawn to the female demographic and particularly the young pre-teens. This film has a 12A rating, but I would not recommend taking anyone below that age or of that age to see the film because it’s amazing how much they get away with in a short space of time including some very explicit swearing and some PG13 sex!!

The big problem with The Huntsman’s plot is they try to cram in way too much plot in a short space of time, the film being 10 minutes shorter than the previous entry, however, this would have been less of an issue if it had been entertaining, which was my strength for Batman v Superman. This one, however, is not that entertaining, especially the last 30 minutes which completely sink whatever goodwill I had for the film.

As for the performances, well, Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain are good but they have very little chemistry actually on screen and this doesn’t help the love story out too well, also if you thought Chris Hemsworth’s Scottish accent in the first film was ropey you should hear Jessica Chastain’s, goodness me she is bad. Charlize Theron has toned down her performance significantly in the film, which means we can take her more seriously as a villain, however, because she is less over the top she is not as entertaining or as memorable as she was in the first film. Hemsworth himself is actually giving off a pretty decent performance when he is by himself and when he is interacting with the dwarfs and he even gets some funny lines in there but it also feels at times like he really is phoning in his performance. Chastain is a really decent actress and I really praised her in a couple of my reviews especially in Crimson Peak where I said she should be up for best supporting actress. The comic relief, once again is done by Nick Frost, who, apart from Chris Hemsworth, is the only returning cast member of the previous film to have an extended amount of camera time and he is joined by Rob Brydon in place of Ian McShane, Toby Jones, Ray Winston and all the other actors who played the 7 dwarfs in the previous film and he does have some funny lines in there and some good interaction with his fellow actors, however, I have already stated my thoughts on the comic relief in this film so I will leave it at that and say I thought their performances were pretty good if at times a bit over exposed. There were some other returning cast members like Sam Claflin as William, however, most of them are cameos, even Charlize Theron feels like a cameo considering she is not in the movie that long which feels even more like false advertising considering that she was very heavily advertised as being in the film! Also for some weird reason Liam Neeson is the Narrator which he’s good at but it’s a bit out of nowhere considering he wasn’t in the last film and he doesn’t physically appear in this one. Overall it’s a decent cast but they can’t really work much with the material.

If there is one thing that this film does very well, it looks very aesthetically pleasing. The environments suit the fairy tale atmosphere and I even like a lot of the ice structures that were formed through the CGI. There are a couple of special effects that really fail, especially towards the end of the film, but I think the effects are actually pretty decent. The costume designs are also fantastic, especially Emily Blunt’s costume though I do think the people made it way too heavy for her so as a result she looks like she is being weighed down with it. Now granted the friend who I went to see this film with pointed out that it’s her armour that she is blocking out the world with and it’s symbolic, so it at least has a point, though I do think that they needed to make the costume slightly lighter so that they could get the point across and it didn’t look like Emily Blunt was fighting against it. The fight scenes are actually rather decent with a couple of exceptions where it was almost impossible to tell what was going on. Chris Hemsworth really suits these kind of scenes and works well with them and it actually gives me hope for the directors upcoming Highlander reboot.

I saw the film in 2D. judging by the final product, I don’t think seeing this film in 3D would have improved it all that much and I didn’t feel like I was missing out anything, in fact, there’s lots of times you will see films in 2D and you will notice an effect that was clearly meant for the 3D and there are barely any of those moments in this film. I almost forgot there was a 3D option available. Obviously having not seen the 3D version it is hard for me to comment, but take my advice and see it in 2D.

Are there positives to this film? Yes there are. I went to see this with my female friend and she absolutely loved this film and in fact thought this film was better than the first film and enjoyed it a lot more, so there is clearly a market for this film, I completely understand why she liked it and I have coincided that there are some positives, there were portions I liked and I wouldn’t dare try to take her’s or anyone else’s enjoyment of it. though she did also have a problem with the severity of the swearing in the film. Between us we came to the conclusion that this is much more aimed at women more than men this time round and I think the love conquers all messages definitely supports that and while this message did suit the film, I just think it was hammered in a bit too much. I think between our opinions you can make up your mind over whether this film is for you.

Is the Huntsman an awful film? No I don’t think it’s awful. Do I think it’s a good film? No. It’s a bad film in every sense of the word, but there is a market for this film and there are some positive points to it. It has a decent cast, the plot is good for the first hour, but you are noticing the cracks as you are watching it and the last 30 minutes kills it entirely. This could have been an excellent movie, but as it stands, it’s not even passable. I know some people are going to like this movie and I think it will be very decisive at the end of the year but as it stands it’s not for me. I would say that this has a lot of cinematic quality to it and it’s worth seeing on the big screen for that sense but I would wait for it to come out on DVD because I suspect the expected extended edition will possibly improve on the film. The best positive I can say about this film is that the action scenes are actually quite good and Emily Blunt’s performance is really good to such an extent it deserved a better film, other than that, this is really an unnecessary film that feels like it’s been padded with way too many sub plots and way too much going on. I really wanted to like this movie, I really did, but it just doesn’t do it for me.

“So, that was The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Did you see it and did you like it?”
Let me know in the comments section what your thoughts are on the film. Remember if you want to keep up with some of the films I am watching outside of my reviews check out my Twitter page. If you also want to submit your own content then visit our ‘how to submit section’. We really need some new content some time soon from you guys, we would welcome anything.

Well, this week has been rather disappointing so let’s hope we have a pick up next week. On 22nd April I will be giving my review of Disney’s latest live action remake of “The Jungle Book”, directed by Iron man director John Favreau.

Thanks for reading my review, I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it and remember if you live in Liverpool, Liverpool Anime and Gaming Con is on 4th and 5th June. I went to the Manchester and London version and it’s a really good con run by some very interesting people and it’s a good place to have a good time discussing your favourite anime and playing some brilliant games. Check it out.

Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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2 comments on “The Huntsman: Winter’s War – Review
  1. kimarley Godfrey says:

    I like it but I felt it needs alot of back story to ravenna and her family the deep background She said wanted kids but couldn’t do anything about it and she said she was in lover but her heart was broken what made her became so terrible for hating men there is always more to tell no women don’t just get up 1 day I say hate men itdays more in the details to the background story

  2. kimarley Godfrey says:

    and also considering buying the blu ray if they are extended edition like what they did with snow white and the huntsman

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