The Huntsman: Winter’s War begins as a prequel, with events prior to the 2012 Snow White and The Huntsman movie. We learn how the Huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth), and Huntswoman Sara (Jessica Chastain), became soldiers in the army of the Ice Queen Freya (Emily Blunt).
The Ice Queen is the younger sister of Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who stole the throne from the innocent Freya. Through a tragic event Freya leaves her sisters kingdom to become the hardhearted Ice Queen of the North, who steals children for her army. Bitter and twisted she is driven by the sole purpose of eradicating love everywhere.
Once the film has explained the complicated history and introduced the characters it suddenly switches to events post Snow White. If it sounds confusing its because it is. Its a strange and clumsy narrative structure that goes from a prequel to a sequel and it takes a moment to get your bearings.
In the sequel portion of the film Queen Ravenna has been defeated by Snow White, the Magic Mirror has gone missing and the Huntsman is hired to find it before it falls into the hands of the wicked Ice Queen. Its basically sister vs sister with the huntsmen caught in the middle.
The Ice Queen Freya, twisted by her own personal tragedies, splits up huntsmen love birds Eric and Sara and exiles them both. Eric has been convinced by Freya that Sara is dead. Sara has been convinced that Eric abandoned her despite his oath of undying love. The film is essentially a love conquers all story. If you can stomach that and the utterly confusing timeline, The Huntsmen: Winters War, is an enjoyable, even if totally contrived fantasy film.
Kristin Stewart as Snow White is completely absent from the film (apparently due to on set drama). Its difficult to work out who the The Huntsman: Winter’s War story really belongs to. It should be Eric the huntsmen but its stolen from the protagonist by the stellar female cast. Eric serves as a bridge between the first Snow White movie and this one. He fights valiantly and offers some dumb boyish grins and one-liners to win over the comparatively sublime long-lost wife Sara. However there’s not a lot of depth to his character and he’s just not very interesting.
The Ice Queen Freya is obviously meant to be the villain of this film however it’s hard to dislike her as Emily Blunts performance is so well executed as she negotiates Freyas quasi and fragile malevolence. She isn’t really bad, she’s just had some bad life circumstances. Charlise Theron plays Ravenna as an over the top, camp, super villain embellished with some surreal and enthralling visuals. The films finale is an epic sister clash between Ravenna and Freya featuring a destructive whirl of gold, feathers, ice and some icky black ooze. Hats off to the costume designers as the outfits are truly visually spectacular. Poor old Eric just doesn’t stand a chance in that drama.
Throughout the film the fight scenes are exceptionally choreographed. Jessica Chastains fighting skills and scenes are sublime although at times she looks a little bored in the role of the “ex-wife” or perhaps her character is just bored with boyish Eric. Its difficult to believe Sara’s character who is so accomplished, would fall for the likes of Eric. As for the acting, Chastain dances rings around Helmsworth.
The dwarves from Snow White make an appearance as they accompany Eric (except for some reason there are only 4 this time and not 7). They provide some comic relief through the film and they have their own entertaining side-story and romance.
Overall The Huntsman: Winter’s War is an entertaining film, a breathtakingly crafted visual splendor despite a trite story-line. The performances are no less than what would be expected from its award winning cast. An enjoyable rainy weekend film.