By Bradley Griffith
As sibling rivalries go, this one is a doozy. “The Huntsman: Winters War” is a fantasy tale with some of the biggest and brightest stars in Hollywood, but it doesn’t quite measure up to the original movie in the saga.
“The Huntsman” takes place in the mythical world of Snow White, though Snow White makes no appearance in the movie. Long before her death in the first film, evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) rules her kingdom in the south with concern only for herself. Ravenna has a sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), who seems kinder and gentler than Ravenna. The women in their family line are blessed with the gift of magic. Sometimes it takes an emotional or devastating event to free the magic buried deep inside.
Ravenna long ago mastered her abilities, but Freya remained powerless when it came to magic. Until she met a man betrothed to another and bore him a son. Freya was convinced he would defy his family and marry her. Instead, he murders their baby and sets loose the anger, magic, and venom inside Freya. Freya becomes an ice queen (think an evil Elsa from “Frozen”) and travels north to build her own kingdom. Freya conquers villages and steals the children, who she trains to be her warriors, her huntsmen.
Two children taken from one village, a boy and a girl, become Freya’s most valiant warriors. Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) grow up together and grow in love. But after Freya’s true love murdered their child Freya has only one rule in her kingdom, love is forbidden. Freya learns of their love and has Sara murdered and Eric left for dead.
Many years later (after the death of Ravenna) Eric is living in the kingdom of Snow White and learns that Ravenna’s evil mirror has disappeared on the way to a place known as sanctuary where the mirror would be safe from those who wish to use its dark magic. Eric reluctantly rides with Snow White’s dwarf friend, Nion (Nick Frost), and his half-brother, Gryff (Rob Brydon), to capture the mirror before the dark magic in the mirror is set free.
It’s hard to imagine a movie with a better cast. Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, and Charlize Theron are four of the most accomplished and bankable stars in the world. Even so, “The Huntsman” doesn’t live up to its promise.
It’s hard to put your finger on what exactly is missing from the movie. The action and fight scenes are well choreographed and expertly acted. The story is somewhat ludicrous, but it’s a fantasy action-adventure movie, we’re talking the land of Snow White and goblins and fairies. It’s not meant to be realistic.
“The Huntsman” is missing that indefinable quality that elevates an average movie to a great movie. It has no pizazz, no twinkle, no…magic.
Hemsworth, Blunt, and Chastain all perform their roles well, even if there was no passion in their performances. On the other hand, Charlize Theron was born to play the evil queen. Beautiful but vicious, Theron is fantastic as the manipulative, conniving, and vile Ravenna. Rarely can a woman as beautiful as Charlize Theron play a role so convincingly evil. Her performance is Oscar-worthy.
“The Huntsman” is not your typical fairy tale. It’s darker and filled with much more violence. Yet, despite its star-studded cast, “The Huntsman” doesn’t capture the same magic found in the original film.
Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence and some sensuality.