I have to hand it to Roth Films and Universal pictures, this is the second movie in this franchise and both times they managed to pull of something rather interesting. You see, we live in an age where, making a good trailer that makes you WANT to see a movie is a tough order. Many studios reveal way too much of the film’s plot or give away all the funny or awesome parts of the film, thus ruining the film. But both this movies *prequel (Snow White and the Huntsman) as well as The Hunstman: Winter’s War had thoroughly exceptional trailers that ended up making me give each film the benefit of the doubt. In the first film, I wasn’t sold on Kristen Stewart, who is? And her character as a whole was rather disappointing in that movie. But the films sequel starring only Hemsworth as the main lead had some solid promise. They spared no expense on casting, Charlize Therone was reprising her role as the evil witch with the awesome Emily Blunt as her super-powered real-life Elsa/sister. And, again, the trailers looks really friggin’ good. And while I had been burned with this franchise before, I decided to give them a second chance. Sadly, I remain disappointed in this franchise as they continue to squander the potential of a live-action grittier Snow White story.
This movie is both a prequel and a sequel to its original film. Some events take place prior to the events of the first film, but about 30 minutes in there is a time jump of seven years bringing you just past the events of the first movie. Ravenna, being the evil sister that she is, betrays her sister Freya by murdering her daughter who will one day grow to be more beautiful that she. Ravenna frames Freya’s lover for this however and upon seeing her daughter’s burned crib a great ‘ice’ power awakens within her. Ravenna later sends her to a kingdom of her own where Freya begins stealing children to build an army of ‘huntsman’ that will, and do, fight wars for land in her name. She literally abduct children from their family and raises them as her own. She has only ONE rule, no love! But of course a young Brighton (Hemsworth) falls for a young ginger named Sara (Jessica Chastain) and they decide to run away together. However, after hearing of their plan Freya fools each lover into thinking the other one is either dead or abandoned them. Seven years later after the defeat of Ravenna, Snow White gives the task of hiding the evil mirror away to Brighton who eventually runs into his beloved ginger. Together they attempt to take down the evil with Freya.
I literally got bored midway through typing that by the way…. also, can we talk about the fact that after two movies, I had NO idea that Hemsworth’s character was named Brighton? Weird….
Here are some of the cool things that this film had going for it: Hemsworth may not be the best actor in the world, and he is far from the worst, but he is funny, likable and has some decent action chops to boot. The fight scenes, then, were pretty good in this movie and they had enough scattered throughout that you didn’t get too crazy bored in the film. Additionally, adding the likes of Chastain and Blunt to Therone’s star power just seemed like an automatic win for me. But I just wanted to see Freya’s character developed more in the film– Blunt isn’t in it enough! And quite honestly, Chastain could have been played by just about any ginger and it would have played the same– no offense to Chastain, she is extremely talented– but said talents was wasted in this film. Honestly, some of the best scenes in the entire movie revolve around Hemsworth schmoozing with Chastain, but these scenes are good because Hemsworth manages to be funny, witty or charming, not because of their on-screen chemistry.
Part of the oddity of this file is that it is both a prequel and a sequel… a presequel? There is too much going on and the re-introduction of Ravenna felt a bit unneccesary and cumbersome. In fact, the film shines pretty brightly when it focuses on Freya’s kingdom and how the ‘huntsmen’ came to be. She was tortured by the death of her child at the hands of an ex-lover and she has a psychotic break due to it. She attempts to fix herself by stealing children in her kingdom and raising them as her own. She not only thinks that this will somehow make up for her loss, she actually thinks she is doing the children a favor, freeing them from the bonds of ‘love’ that can destroy your heart. In her own way, she does love the children as if they were her own, but this movie only hints at this subplot rather than highlighting it. This could have been an extremely solid character study and Freya might have been able to take center stage– but instead we only get small snippets of her character as the movie focuses, instead, on random action or dwarf-humor.
And given the material that the movie chooses to focus on, The Huntsman: Winter’s War was entirely too long. Partly due to poor pacing, partly due to needless film sequences that seem to be there for no other reason than to extend the runtime. We get a film filled with Goblin fights, a few huntsmen v huntsmen fights, a bar fight, needless dwarf introductions and more. All of it feels both unneccessary as well as poorly edited and the end result is a movie that just… feels far too long. Add the fact that you have a film that is completely and utterly predictable and you have a bit of a snooze-fest if you ask me.
Granted, the film wasn’t all bad– like I said before there are some good scenes, interesting characters and solid fight choreography– but the bad outweighs the good by a lot in the film and I cannot quite shake the feeling that the content of the movie would have been better served as a television mini-series. Even the way the movie was paced would have worked as a 3-4 episode series. The film did an okay job of throwing in little climactic scenes throughout the film so you don’t entirely lose interest in the content and I would have enjoyed the movie much more broken up rather than seeing it unfold in one shot.
All-in-all, I feel a bit slighted with the second installment of this franchise. Both times I got burned on solid trailers that made the movie look far better than the end result was. The film isn’t a complete waste of space– there are just too many flaws to count and its runtime drags due to the films poor pacing and ability to be so overly predictable. The film had some potential– and it certainly wasn’t as bad as its original, but that doesn’t make it a good film by default! SO maybe just rent this movie instead? Do people still rent movies….?