DVD Review – The Huntsman: Winter’s War
A prequel, sequel and origin story all rolled into one, this follow up to Snow White and the Huntsman is a derivative and disjointed slice of formulaic fantasy hokum, which suffers from a convoluted script and glaring lack of originality. It is also curiously entertaining thanks to a sublime cast working their hardest to inject some magic into an ultimately hollow and uninspiring fairy-tale franchise.
Evil queen Revenna (Charlize Theron) was the nefarious villain in the first film and features sporadically again here. The focus however shifts to her sister Freya (Emily Blunt) who discovers her own magical powers in the wake of an overwhelming personal tragedy. She becomes the ice queen, ruler of a frost bitten kingdom where love is forbidden and children are stolen from their parents to be raised as lethal warriors, loyal subjects to her throne, with no emotional connection to anyone else. When her two best huntsmen Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) grow up and fall in love, Freya takes this as the ultimate betrayal, resorting to merciless measures in order to separate the pair. Several years later, with a war on the horizon, the huntsman emerges from his slumber when he is called on a quest to find Snow White’s stolen magic mirror before it falls into the wrong hands.
The original film gained notoriety due to the scandalous extra curricular activities of star Kristen Stewart and director Rupert Sanders. Subsequently, neither were involved in this production. Stewart’s character Snow White is referenced but doesn’t feature whilst Sanders has been replaced by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, the visual effects supervisor on the first film stepping up for his feature directorial debut. Snow White’s absence sits uncomfortably in the film but is papered over quite well due to the presence of other compelling female characters. Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt are excellent in their respective roles, bringing a certain amount of class and gravitas to proceedings. Charlize Theron is a commanding presence as always while Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach provide solid comical back up as treasure hunters Bromwyn and Doreena. Their male counterparts deliver the goods also. Rob Brydon and Nick Frost are in fine form as dwarf brothers Nion and Griff while Hemsworth is thoroughly convincing in the lead role, gracing the film with a solid mixture of charm, brawn and humour.
The director does a competent enough job in the visual department but the film is hindered by soulless, lazy, join the dots plotting. Aesthetically and thematically, it borrows heavily from better source material with Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and Frozen being practically plagiarised throughout. With a less talented cast, this would have been a potential disaster but the film is salvaged by some exceptional performances. Overall, a mildly diverting but soulless cinematic experience.