********* 6 out of 10 *********
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Actors: Emily Blunt, Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron
The idea of Chris Hemsworth as Eric the Huntsman and Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen Ravenna returning to the big screen is an exciting one. It was on that idea alone that Universal Pictures seems to have chosen to make a sequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman even without Snow White. I wish they had offered us a bit more than that. The Huntsman: Winter’s War, which serves as a prequel as well as a sequel, has a scrappily put together story that fails to sparkle as a fairy tale or an adventure. The previous movie had a rich source material from which it could feed, but this time, the writers had to be more imaginative and come up with something fresh and interesting. The writing team of Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin try that by introducing us to Ravenna’s younger sister Freya (played by Emily Blunt). She is shown to have a warmer heart than her elder sister which turns into something darker when she is betrayed by her lover (something like it happened in Maleficent), unleashing her powers to command ice (which will remind you of Elsa from Frozen). She forbids love in her kingdom until two dare defy her (Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain).
Even though it isn’t the most interesting of back-stories that could have been written, the writing duo could have salvaged things with an exciting adventure later on, when we move forward in the timeline to the period after the events of Snow White and the Huntsman. Here the Huntsman is hoping to keep Raven’s Mirror away from the hands of Freya (the Mirror will remind you of the Ring from LOTR), along with the help of two dwarf brothers. It’s the kind of adventure that we had shared with Snow White before, when she enters the Dark Forest, survives it, meets the dwarves, eats the apple, puts on her battle gear, wages a war. That was thrilling! The adventure that we follow in The Huntsman: Winter’s War is tame in comparison; it looks promising in parts but never ties up perfectly well to give a thrill that such a movie should carry. Predictable in many places, the movie’s plot tries to be too clever at times for its own good, putting in some twists and turns that become an annoyance rather than a surprise.
Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan has made his debut as a director with The Huntsman: Winter’s War, having worked before as a second unit director on the sets of Snow White and the Huntsman and in the visual effects department for other movies. Nicolas-Troyan does bring about a grandeur to the tale with shots across large landscapes and good use of special effects. The finale especially has some alluring shots as the use of CGI brings about a richness to the tale. The movie though needed more of the same. What it is also needed was better pacing of scenes, where Nicolas-Troyan’s lack of experience is visible. The editing work doesn’t feel upto the mark. The music though by James Newton Howard does its bit to add some excitement to the film.
The movie’s biggest lifeline is its brilliant cast. Three terrific women, each known for their affinity to play strong and tough roles, bring in more depth to the movie and its characters. Charlize Theron was splendid as the evil and yet mesmerising Ravenna before, and she’s glorious and majestic now too. She commands the show when she’s on-screen, and to look away from her would be a regrettable choice. Emily Blunt shines as Freya, displaying the cold-hearted powerful tyrant with a tinge of softness to contrast her character with that of Ravenna. Jessica Chastain comfortably slips into the role of the dominating and strong-willed Sara, constrained only by the lack of development of her character in the script and that rather strong Scottish (or is it Irish?) accent. Chris Hemsworth is another joy to watch on the big screen, with his wide grin and charming personality that is much needed in an otherwise grim-looking dark-toned landscape. The chemistry though between Hemsworth and Chastain isn’t the most spectacular one you would be seeing this year. Blame again the lack of depth in the script for that!
The Huntsman: Winter’s War is an example of how the presence of strong actors cannot alone make a movie spectacular, while at the same time it is the presence of those same great actors that can salvage something out of a poor movie. An unnecessary sequel though this one is, its flaw lies in the lack of imagination shown by the writers and the director to step away from conventional ways to go about a movie. More creativity in the script could have done wonders to the film considering the acting talent that was on hand to enact it; but alas, all fairytales are not going to end up perfect, eh!?