Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Starring Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron & Jessica Chastain
Film review by Alexander Halsall
I don’t believe sequels/prequels in and of themselves are bad things. If there is a worthwhile story to be told and the motivation behind a film’s creation is driven primarily from a desire to create something of value rather than simply using a recognisable property to make some easy money then why should a film be devalued because it is a continuation, or a remaining? However, when a film does feel unwarranted, and offers a minimal appropriation for its own existence, it is rather natural to become somewhat frustrated at the lackadaisical attitude of filmmaking on display. With that in mind let’s take a look at The Huntsman: Winter’s War.
Taking place before the events of Snow White and The Huntsman Freya (Emily Blunt), sister of Ravenna (Charlize Theron), has given birth to a child. When the baby is killed by its father, Freya’s dormant ice powers burst forth and she kidnaps children from their families in order to build an army. Two of these children, Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain), fall in love (which Freya has forbidden) leading them to rebel against her rule.
The film’s overly convoluted narrative structure makes it a strenuous and confusing viewing. It serves as both a prequel, and a sequel, to Snow White and the Huntsman but feels unimpressively stitched together. It never finds a unique voice of its own, whilst being riddled with cliché, and incoherent storytelling. The addition of Emily Blunt as Freya seems like an attempt to appeal to the massive Frozen fan base to see a grittier live action interpretation of the character of Elsa, one whose motivations seem ridiculous and implausible. I’ve never seen Emily Blunt seem so lethargic and lifeless. As a fantastic actress it has taken some truly exhaustively dour writing to dull her remarkable talents, but dulled she is. Charlize Theron doesn’t chew the scenery, but delves into a three course meal of performance excess, whilst Jessica Chastain is wasted completely as the shallowly characterised Sara. Hemsworth has a lot of charm and charisma, but even he wears thin as the film concludes. The comical support of Nick Frost, Rob Brydon and Sheridan Smith as a group of dwarves are pretty hit and miss, though Smith is unarguably the stand out ensemble performer. Winter’s War is the directorial debut of visual effects artist Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (who worked on the previous film) and unsurprisingly some of the interesting visual designs are the film’s strongest aspect, such as Ravenna’s magic mirror and Freya’s ice owl.
Winter’s War is a poorly constructed time sink. A handful of nicely assorted special effects and a couple of astutely choreographed fight scenes aside there isn’t anything of merit or substance. If you were a fan of the first film and are searching for more detail and backstory regarding the characters then this may have some interest for you, however the incoherence of the narrative and the competency of the execution may leave you wanting. Again sequels/prequels are not negative things in of themselves, and there are numerous examples to prove this. The Huntsman: Winters War is not one of these though, and hopefully we will see the talented cast and crew of this feature embark on a project more deserving of their time in the future.