Winter is coming, and it looks like it has stayed as the influence of HBO’s Game Of Thrones is felt all across this film. Each film that Disney has reimagined as a live-action fairytale has been touched by that show. From the action, to the back stabbing plots and general imagery, to even casting the same actors - everyone wants a part of that George R.R. Martin magic.
Part Lord Of The Rings, part Chronicles Of Narnia, part Xena: Warrior Princess, The Huntsmen: Winter’s War is the prequel to Snow White and The Huntsmen. On the previous film a scandal was created by director Rupert Sanders when he and Twilight star Kristen Stewart had a riotous affair that ended Sanders marriage and delayed the sequel. ‘Winter War’ sees the return of Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, and comedian Nick Frost all reprising their roles. Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain are the new heavy hitters to the series. The film highlights basically why the Huntsmen were created and walks us through their Spartan-like training. Chastain plays the romantic interest of Hemsworth as a fellow and rival Huntsmen.
‘Winters War’ is a very pretty movie and like its predecessor should be praised for its costumes and visual design. It is the directorial debut of Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who was the visual effects supervisor on the previous film. But from the opening scenes the movie is extremely predictable, making it gorgeous but painstakingly boring. ‘Huntsmen’ watches like a film that wants to be a different movie. A darker, more gritty and violent movie; a movie that wants to be for adults that is watered down by being a Disney property. From the snarky humor to the bloodless limb dismemberments, everything is toting the grey area line hoping for mass market appeal. As a result the film feels like it is missing something.
With a mixed bag of some of the best actors around, most of them end up really just being wasted talent. Charlize Theron outshines everyone on screen as other powerhouses Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain are not really given much meat to chew on, and do their best with their undeveloped characters. This is a movie where, outside of Theron, you can tell Academy Award winning actors are just collecting a paycheck. The breakaway stars and breath of life in this dull film are comedians Nick Frost and Sheridan Smith who play hilarious dwarves. There is a moment in the film when they are captured and are absent from the screen for about twenty minutes and their presence is sorely missed.
It’s a shame that this movie is so disappointing when there really is a novel idea here. Most of the characters suffer indignities, but so little time is spent in character building that you don’t feel for them and what they are going through. So much is shoved into this film that it watches like a beat board in a production meeting: open with tragedy, twenty minutes in - mandatory fight scene, forty five minutes in - big plot twist reveal; last twenty minutes - climactic final boss battle.
Snow White is Disney’s oldest intellectual property, as it was the first feature length animation that Walt Disney created. We, as an audience, are familiar with these tired characters; but the dark take is refreshing. When characters are not developed, you don’t sympathize for them as an audience member. Really ‘The Huntsmen’ series should be broken down into more movies: with a movie dedicated just to Hemsworth and Chastain’s journey and a separate movie dedicated to just Queen Freya that ends in a cliffhanger tragedy. That way, when something tragic happens to these characters, it doesn't come off as too many story arcs being shoehorned together, you actually care about the characters; hopefully coming back for the sequel to see how it plays out.