At first I didn’t like The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Then, as I kept watching, it seemed to find its footing a bit and I began to see that there was a great movie in here, struggling to get out. What’s more, I had this nagging feeling that I’d seen this great movie before. Near the end of the movie, I realized where I’d seen it – in the trailer. At 2 minutes, 30 seconds, the trailer for The Huntsman, Winter’s War, was a gorgeous cinematic masterpiece. What I saw this afternoon was the same film except it was 113 minutes too long.
As a war between rival queen sisters Ravenna and Freya escalates, Eric and fellow warrior Sara, members of the Huntsmen army raised to protect Freya, try to conceal their forbidden love as they combat Ravenna’s wicked intentions.
Dammit, The Huntsman: Winter’s War, what happened? I wanted so badly to like you. You had magnificent special effects, Chris Hemsworth, great pacing and a complete lack of Kristen Stewart. What more could you have needed? Quite a lot, as it turns out. My main complaint with this film is that it made no sense. The characters had no motivation other than they needed to act in order to advance the plot. Sometimes they announced their feelings and intentions but most of the time, they just acted in a way that moved the story along for no real reason. There was one point where all the characters in a room undertook something difficult, ineffective and dangerous which no reasonable person would have done. I found myself wondering why until it dawned on me – they did it because otherwise they’d have nothing to do but stand and wait.
There was a moment in the first film, Snow White and the Huntsman, where a white horse was on the beach just waiting for Snow White and just carried her to the forest with NO explanation for it. That drove me crazy, let me tell you but instead of improving on it, Winter’s War is just full of such moments. Throughout the film, I kept thinking “________ doesn’t work this way”, where ________ was any noun presented on screen – huntsmen, ice, horses, love, war, monarchy, chess, rivers – you get the idea.
The acting was uneven. I didn’t feel like they made the most of Chris Hemsworth. Charming fellow that he may be, the only time he was shirtless was when he was chastely hidden by water or some similar circumstance. Why hire the man if you’re not going to show him off? Is it because nobody takes their shirt of when it’s winter? A little late to be logical now, Winter’s War. But there were moments of brilliance too – Nick Frost was wonderful. Actually all the dwarves were wonderful. And true to form, Charlize Theron singlehandedly saved every scene she was in (total duration, probably 20 minutes or so).
I’m actually surprised by how much bad I have to say about this movie. I didn’t hate it, really I didn’t, I was just… let down. I had expected better. But there were good things. There were some beautiful shots and beautiful moments but the problem with those was they were all in the trailer. I liked the relationship between the two sister queens. There were some actually good plot twists that breathed some life into the lurching wheezing plot, but those were not enough. There were some very awesome and original set pieces. And I’ve got to respect this: the movie was consistent with its theme. It asked a question and answered it. Not just once, but a couple of times, in different ways. It’s just that… people don’t work that way, so the answer didn’t mean much.
So is The Huntsman: Winter’s War, worth watching. No. Don’t buy a ticket, don’t rent it. Don’t watch it for free – at least not all the way though. Watch the trailer and imagine how good the movie could have been and leave it at that. That’s not to say there couldn’t be special cut that would be good, where they edit out all the weak bits and Chris Hemsworth’s shirt. It could happen, except that the end product would be about half an hour or so, tops.