A rare sequel that may be better than the original, The Huntsman: Winter’s War features a fine cast, great visuals, and a rousing adventure.
Plot: Eric (Chris Hemsworth) ventures to stop the wicked Ravenna’s magic mirror from falling into the hands of her cold-hearted sister (Emily Blunt).
Review: It’s funny, when Snow White and the Huntsman came out, I remember it being a huge blockbuster success – and a decent movie. While I wasn’t enthralled with Kristen Stewart in the titular role, I thought Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron did bang-up jobs as the Huntsman and the wicked Queen, respectively. That said, I wasn’t expecting a sequel to come out 4 years later.
Yet it did, and the most significant criticism I heard about it was, “This movie was unnecessary.” I usually hear that when the critic didn’t like the movie but had no real reason why. They just hate the film for being. In all honesty, with few exceptions, most sequels fall under those categories. Back to the Future II? Did we really need Marty to go to the future? Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom? Did we really need to know what adventures Indiana Jones had before Raiders? The Godfather II? Did we really need to know what Michael does after assuming the mantle of the Godfather or how Vito Corleone got his start? You could argue all were unnecessary but were made and are generally considered great movies. So, yeah, there goes that argument.
What Winter’s War is, though, is a very engaging adventure. It starts with the cast, who are dynamite. Charlize Theron, the more I watch her, the more I’m convinced that she’s excellent in every single role she assumes, even when the movie isn’t great. Chris Hemsworth has that friendly likeability that just makes you cool with going on an adventure with him, regardless of what it is. Emily Blunt is perfect as the conflicted and damaged sister to Charlize’s character. Jessica Chastain has a great screen presence as Hemsworth’s estranged wife. Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, and Sheridan Smith are terrific comic relief. They even got Liam Neeson to narrate, and there are few Hollywood actors with a better voice than him.
The visuals for this movie are terrific. I know some people don’t like the CGI characters for fantasy movies, and there are creatures in this one, so spoilers; if you don’t like this sort of CGI, then just forewarning you. But I found the visuals stunning, especially the Ice Queen’s palace and the forest. I found that the richness of the visuals really added to the story and made the world they were trying to create come alive.
While I would say the story was anything to write home about, I think it served the purpose of functioning as both a prequel and a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman. At least I didn’t sit there through the movie, thinking, “Damn, this is so dumb. Did they even watch the first one?” which is not always the case with these types of films. The action was decent enough, and there were some good sequences between Jessica Chastain and Chris Hemsworth, and he takes down a goblin in pretty spectacular fashion to boot. While not top of the chart, the music fits what’s going on and is agreeable enough to not be annoying.
In wrapping, The Huntsman: Winters War surpassed my expectations (which were not that great, to begin with) and featured a great cast, spectacular visuals, humour, wonder, and most of all, entertainment. While some people may have been looking for more in the film (and if they were, I’m not sure what), this hit the spot for me, and I would gladly recommend it, especially to those who liked the first film and never saw this one.