The Huntsman: Winter’s War: Frostbit, by Rudie Obias
Back in 2012, Snow White and the Huntsman took a dark and gritty look at a classic fairy tale we (most likely) know and love. The biggest surprise from director Rupert Sanders’ film was its humor and world that’s full of imagination and creativity. Its sequel – The Huntsman: Winter’s War – takes a different view of the fairy tale that serves as its prequel and sequel at the same time. While Snow White and the Huntsman was a flawed first effort from a rookie director, The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a misguided step that lands with a ice cold thud.
The film starts off with the introduction of Freya (Emily Blunt). She’s Ravenna’s (Charlize Theron) sister and serves as the film’s misunderstood big bad. When she was young, her true love betrayed her and murdered her daughter, so she’s taken to a life of cold isolation as the Ice Queen. Now without love, she’s wants to make her kingdom feel her pain, as she kidnaps all of the children to turn them into child soldiers for her growing army.
In her army are two young soldiers named Sarah (Jessica Chastain) and Eric (Chris Hemsworth), who grow up to be elite. The Ice Queen has one rule: love is not allowed in her kingdom. But wouldn’t you know it, Sarah and Eric break that rule and fall in love. They plan to escape and live a life together away from the Ice Queen, but she manages to stop and separate them. Eric is banished from the kingdom to grow up to be…The Huntsman!
The beginning of the film serves as a prequel, but after the first act, it reveals itself as a proper sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman. This is an interesting turn in blockbuster storytelling. So many times prequels aren’t worth telling because those who saw the original film already know how things are going to turn out. It just seems like a less than meaningful way to watch a movie. However, turning the prequel tag on its head by cutting to the story years later, puts the storytelling in an interesting light. The events of Snow White and the Huntsman happened and we, as the audience, get a better sense of the character’s mindset and motivations. But the a solid structure does not a worthwhile watch make.
Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is taking audiences on a very familiar journey. Another first-timer, he served as second unit director and visual effects supervisor on Snow White and the Huntsman, but that training doesn’t seem to have paid off. Far too many times, the film lacks a certain punch on a story level and on a visual level. The world is still full of weird and strange animals and fairies that give it personality and texture, but it’s all in service of nothing. World-building is fine and dandy when the story and characters are part of it instead of feeling disjointed and segmented. The Huntsman: Winter’s War never really comes together or expands, even after a pretty smart set up.
A lot of the movie drags because of its pacing and mini-quest structure in the latter half. And while the world seems really big and expansive, much of The Huntsman: Winter’s War is set in small rooms with a handful of people occupying them. As talented as the cast might be in other films, somehow they just come off as dull and humorless, despite the fact that the movie is full of jokes that simply don’t work. The film builds to a war that never seems to happen on the screen and time and time again we only see that aftermath of would-be epic battles. It’s frustrating to hear characters describe these battles, but we only see what happens after it’s all said and done. In a livelier film with more invested performers, this could be a nicely subversive touch, but the viewer can hardly be blamed for expecting certain base pleasures from a movie called The Huntsman: Winter’s War; all it leaves are those constant frustrations.