Review: The Huntsman: Winter’s War

jessica-chastain-the-huntsman-winter-s-war-poster-2_2Distributor: Universal Pictures
Director: Cedric Nicholas-Troyan
Writers: Evan Spiliotopoulas & Craig Mazin
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: PG-13
Do you see that trailer up there? Don’t watch it. It doesn’t tell you anything about this film’s actual plot and will only spoil twists for you. The only reason I’m including it in this review is because of guidelines. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is advertised as a movie focusing on the opposing sides of two sisters. Unfortunately, that’s very false. Remove that expectation and maybe you’ll enjoy the film more. I saw the first film Snow White and the Huntsman years ago and it was the one role I’ve seen Kristen Stewart in that I didn’t despise her. Since I enjoyed that movie, I had hoped that this film would follow in its footsteps, but it didn’t, and I blame it on marketing.

Content Guide

Violence/Scary Images: There’s a good deal of violence that involves people being shot, stabbed, frozen, punched, and hit over the head. A baby is burned to death though you don’t see anything too graphic, and Freya forces children into becoming soldiers. The characters sustain wounds, though veiled, deal with a good portion of blood. Ravenna can be scary, especially when she starts bleeding black gunk from her mouth, and the ram-gorilla-designed goblins could be frightening too. During a scene where Eric and the dwarves come across fallen soldiers, dogs and ravens are eating some of the carcasses. Some PG-13 movies can be viewed by younger children, but I don’t recommend this for anyone under the designated age range and even thirteen is pushing it.
Language/Crude Humor: There wasn’t much swearing at all. The only words I remember are one usage of bi*** and a**.
Spiritual Content: This is fantasy so there’s a lot of magic involved. Freya the Ice Queen has ice abilities that allow her to freeze anything around her and create things out of ice. She also uses a mask to see through the eyes of ice owls. Ravenna’s abilities are the most frightening. She uses black spikes to spear her enemies. The Mirror drives people mad to kill each other, and Freya uses magic words to summon Ravenna out of the Mirror.
Sexual Content: There’s a good deal of intense kissing between Eric and Sara. There are also two implied sex scenes, though in the second one they are married. They performed this marriage bond themselves for they didn’t have an officiate because love is banned by Freya in her land. The dwarf couples also kiss but they’re much less intense than between the two main characters. Freya has an affair with a Prince which produces a child. Some of the pixies are nude though no genitalia is shown.
Drug/Alcohol Reference: Eric and the dwarves drink alcohol at a pub, though they don’t become intoxicated.
Other Negative Content: Freya has a distorted view that love is a sin.
Positive Content: Eric is definitely the most admirable character of the movie. His devotion to his wife is inspiring. I enjoyed seeing a married couple as the main characters of an epic fantasy film, though I’d hope to see more positive aspects of their relationship since most of it was tense since Sara though Eric abandoned her. Eric is very sacrificial and he’s patient with his wife no matter what her attitude is toward him. There are several great displays of what a godly husband should be.

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Review

First of all this synopsis from IMDB is almost completely false:
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.
Because of the nature of the film, the way the trailers are edited, and synopses like that, it’s confusing as to what the actual plot is. The trailers focus on the two queens and a lot of prologue information which could mislead that this film is a prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman. This is only half true. The below may thought of as spoilers, but this is to dispel any false expectations like what I had.
The first thirty minutes of the film is one very long prologue which in turn is what the trailers mostly advertise. In this prologue, you learn about how Freya’s abilities manifested after her child’s murder then how because of her grief she got an epiphany to start capturing children to make them hers and “free” them from love so they could become her huntsman. Then the focus shifts to Eric who was raised as one of these huntsman and how he fell in love with one of his fellow recruits whom he ends up marrying. Freya discovered their attachment and then killed Sara in front of Eric and had Eric disposed of. Obviously, Eric survived and he became the huntsman we know from the Snow White and the Huntsman.
Now we finally get to the actual plot which has nothing to do with a rivalry between two sisters at all. As I said in my small synopsis, the plot focuses on the magic mirror and Eric and Sara’s fractured marriage, not sibling animosity. Most of the movie consists of trying to keep the Mirror out of the hands of Freya. Only in the last thirty minutes of the film do you see the sisters together for any long amount of time. Furthermore, in the majority of that period, they are allies. They don’t become enemies until the last ten minutes of the film.
Therefore this film was almost completely marketed falsely.
And I’m afraid this deception is going to drive away audiences.

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With that huge marketing fail out of the way, the actual plot wasn’t very good. The concept of children raised to become soldiers for the Ice Queen was very intriguing and drew me in, but the trailers shot the movie in the foot when they spoiled several of the twists and used material that the movie never included. The trailers showed most of the good stuff which made the rest of the movie seem unimpressive. The movie focused on the theme that love is powerful which was a good point, but it seemed to conflict with the dark tone the movie put off initially.
Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain do well as the tumultuous huntsman couple. They have good tension and I love their Scottish accents. Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt do well as the two queens, Ravenna as seductively evil and Freya as fragile and grief-stricken, though I’d hoped to see more dynamics between them as advertised in the trailers. The dwarves added some humor to lighten the mood, but they seemed almost unneeded. The movie could have done without them.
The sets and effects were beautiful to behold. The Ice Queen’s domain had a Skyrim feel with the Norse architecture and garb with auroras and snow. The Queens’ costumes were beautiful and very imaginative. So beautiful that they seemed to be changing clothing every other scene to display yet another outfit. There are many cool scenes with creative magic and cool fairy beasts, but as with other films, the CGI can’t compensate for a saggy plot.
I wanted to like this movie. I really did, especially since Chris Hemsworth is one of my favorite actors. I tried to see it in the eyes of someone who hadn’t seen the trailers, but unfortunately the interesting characters and the neat fairy tale world just couldn’t fix the shallow plot. This sequel tried very hard to be good, but the marketing proved to be its downfall.

Positives

+ Interesting Concept + Beautiful Visual Affects + Two Lovers Who Actually Marry Early On

Negatives

- Falsely Advertised - Twists Fell Flat Mostly Because They Were Spoiled in the Trailers - Charlize Theron is Hyped Up in the Trailers But Only Actually Appears In the Very Beginning and the Very End of the Film

The Bottom Line

The Huntsman: Winter's War had the potential to be a better film than its predecessor, but it's obvious by the false advertising that marketing was a bit nervous about this film's actual plot. While it has good moments between characters and stunning, creative visuals, this plot makes this film only mediocre at best.

 

6.6

Victoria Grace Howell

Victoria Grace Howell is an artist and aspiring speculative fiction writer. She received Teen Writer of the Year in 2014 at the Florida Christian Writers Conference , a conference she attended since 2010, and the Believers Trust Award in 2015. When she's not writing her books or articles, she enjoys drawing her characters, playing the piano and practicing Kung Fu.

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