The first thing that came to my mind when I finished The Huntsman: Winter’s War was that it was some sort of Frozen/Hunger Games hybrid. In the movie, there are two sisters, one of whom eventually leaves the castle to become a hostile ice princess. There is also a strong-willed woman whose weapon of choice is a bow and arrow that she shoots with incredible accuracy (don’t even get me started on the scene that was basically me reliving Finnick Odair’s death). The two plotlines do converge successfully but become disjointed midway to unravel a journey filled with cold rivalry. Most aspects of the film work in its favor, notably the strong cast (Blunt and Theron) and it is a shame that the screenplay was the biggest issue with the entire film.
Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who’s known for his visual effect masterpieces, certainly looks like he knows what he’s doing when it comes to the visual effects in this film. Each scene’s colors are carefully tied to its characters’ inner feelings and adds an extra element of depth to the character that the screenplay struggles to achieve. The sheer detail within these visual effects successfully manages to set up a singular succession of panoramic landscapes that will capture audiences’ hearts right till the end. However, I did feel that Nicolas-Troyan could have toned down the visual intensity of the battle scenes because it overexaggerated the scene’s intensity and detracted audiences from the battles’ purposes and the characters’ motivations. Battles are always captivating to watch. However, too much of them leaves viewers confused.
I can understand the reasons behind not wanting Kristen Stewart to play Snow White in the sequel but I have to wonder why they chose to stray away from the story in the first movie. This movie went in a completely different direction, focusing more on a different sister and obviously the Huntsman. It was a bit confusing at first, because in the beginning the movie had a very prequel-esque quality, showing us the deterioration of the relationship between Freya (Emily Blunt) and Ravenna (Charlize Theron), and the budding romance between the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain). Then, the events of the war between Ravenna and Snow White/the Huntsman were outlined and we flashed forward seven years. It was somewhat of a disconcerting way to piece the story together and it pulled me out of the movie momentarily as I tried to get my bearings.
What I thought could have really worked in favor of the film’s plotline was the display of hatred, sibling rivalry and dramatic tension between Freya and Ravenna. The screenplay introduces them in the first half of the movie and brings them back toward the end for one final showdown. Despite being similar to Frozen, I strongly felt these sisters’ tensions with one another should have been further developed. The Huntsman and Sara’s plotlines may be necessary but I wanted to see more of Freya and Ravenna’s interactions with one another. This itself could have been the sole plotline, and it would most certainly have worked better for the film’s direction.
Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron’s acting are visual displays of artistic perfection that no one should miss. Blunt weaves her way through Freya’s frozen, cold nature and bubbling fear of Ravenna in an incredibly justifiable manner, which leaves audiences unable to hate her character. As for Theron, her ability to switch into a conniving, greedy and powerful Ravenna is a masterpiece in itself. You are left rooting for her to become even more evil, and you want to see her transform into a monster. That itself shows the acting depths that Theron has dived into. A minor qualm I had with the film was Chastain and Hemsworth’s acting. In most scenes, I felt like they were trying to grasp their characters but kept slipping away from them. This was probably tied to the loose holes in the script.
My biggest complaint about the acting, however tangential, was the Irish accents that they used, especially Chris Hemsworth. I understand that it was necessary to establish the scene, setting and time period of the movie, but I could barely understand half of what Chris Hemsworth was saying. Not that I didn’t mind just staring at him for two hours, but sometimes I would be focused on trying to decipher what he was saying and I would miss the quippy one-liner that followed from some other character.
Again, Nicolas-Troyan knows how to work color to the film’s advantage to unveil and develop the characters’ moods. Freya and Ravenna’s costumes are detailed, tastefully crafted and will lure you in right away. I would like to note that Ravenna’s costumes were so grandiose that it was hard for me to not feel envious of her at times. In contrast, The Huntsman and Sara’s costumes were plaid, earthy and muddy, but perfectly resonated with their positions in Freya and Ravenna’s kingdom. If you are a fan of fashion, and fantasy or fairytale fashion in particular, don’t miss the stunning gowns in this film!