Having not seen “Snow White and The Huntsman“, I went into Universal Pictures’ “The Huntsman: Winter’s War“ with no expectations and was pleasantly surprised by this prequel/sequel. I know there have been quite a few reviews that didn’t love it but at the end of the day this is a fairytale derived movie and you’re meant to suspend your disbelief at times. Nobody goes into this film to take it seriously, if anything they watch it for a bit of mindless fun. The acting wasn’t awful, the scenery was nice to look at, the costumes were gorgeous and there were some positive messages, so what more could you want?
For those wondering how this prequel/sequel concept works, the film begins with the origin story of the characters and how they came to be. We pretty much get the impression that Ravenna (Charlize Theron) has been a been a pretty ruthless and vindictive character forever, as she even looks on her gentler younger sister Freya (Emily Blunt) with distain after she falls in love with a Duke and becomes pregnant with his child (even though he is promised to another). Freya will eventually give birth to a baby girl, only for her happiness to be ripped away one tragic night. This triggers Freya’s icy powers and before you can sing “Let It Go”, she flees the kingdom to set up her own isolated kingdom up north. Freya pretty much becomes a much darker version of Elsa from “Frozen”, sending armies to villages to take away children and bring them to her kingdom where she teaches them to harden their hearts to love and trains them to become her skilled soldiers. Amongst these children is a young Eric from “Snow White and The Huntsman” and an equally promising young warrior Sara. As adults Eric and Sara (now played by Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain) are now Freya’s best soldiers and fall in love, sneaking around the kingdom thinking that no one is watching, but Freya sees all (thanks to her creepy owl). As the pair plot to leave, Freya and the rest of her soldiers stop them, resulting in Sara’s death. That’s what happens when you disobey the queen and her rules.
Fast forward to seven years later and the sequel aspect of this film kicks off. Ravenna has just died and the Magic Mirror has been taken – most likely by Freya, who will do whatever is possible to bring her dear ol’ sister back. King William on behalf of Snow White seeks Eric the Huntsman and asks for his help retrieving it. Eric declines at first but eventually agrees and two of his dwarf friends join him on the quest, but not before drinking at a pub one night, where they are then ambushed by another group of huntsmen and are saved by a mysterious stranger… who then reveals herself to be Sara! She’s not exactly happy to see Eric, thinking that he just left her all those years ago despite him protesting that he’s spent all this time grieving for her, but hey if it’s a chance to stick it to Freya, she’s in. (Side note, while we’re on a kick of making Disney movie comparisons, Sara totally reminded of a live action and grown up version of Merida from Disney Pixar’s “Brave”.) When they continue on their journey the next morning (with Eric and Sara bickering like an old married couple that they could’ve been), they meet two more female dwarves who join them. The group eventually get their hands on the mirror, only for it to be taken away from them by Freya’s army and then the plot thickens – well as much as it can in a fairytale-derived story.
Don’t let the title of this movie fool you, it is every much about the leading ladies in this story than it is about Eric the Huntsman. Charlize Theron revels as the delightfully wicked Ravenna and never wants strays from portraying such a cruel character. Emily Blunt balances the fine line of ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned’ with a touch of vulnerability. Not to mention the costumes for the two sisters are stunning! The costume department on this movie went all out and it really shows. Jessica Chastain plays the part of a strong and independent woman well as Sara, and I’ve got to say whoever is doing her braided hairstyles in this movie has them on point. I totally had hair envy over Sara! Chris Hemsworth not only provides the pretty as Eric the Huntsman (okay let’s be real, all four leads are beautiful people so it’s more that Hemsworth is the mancandy in that case), but also brings a light-hearted charm to a character who could have easily been all doom and gloom. I laughed more than I expected to in this flick, in most part due to the comic relief of the dwarf characters played by Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Alexandra Roach and Sheridan Smith. The subplot featuring the dwarves was cute too. Like I said, no one should be going into this film expecting an intellectual thought-provoking story, but if you like a fun film with a bit of action and a side of romance, then “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” is worth a look.
“The Huntsman: Winter’s War” lands in cinemas April 22.