The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Year: 2016
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt
Written by Fiona Underhill

I was quite excited when early images and posters were released for this film – despite being called ‘The Huntsman’, the focus of the film certainly seemed to be on the three strong female leads – Charlize Theron returning as “main baddy” Ravenna, Emily Blunt as her sister Freya, the Ice Queen, and Jessica Chastain as Sara, the huntswoman. It is refreshing to see a major blockbuster film with this sort of male-to-female ratio, and to see Chris Hemsworth once again joining a mainly female ensemble cast. However, the film did gather a lot of negative reviews, which meant seeing it at the cinema was no longer a priority.

For a film like this, especially if you’ve seen the first one, you know what you’re getting – a large scale fantasy, with some impressive CGI and some nicely-drawn characters. Nick Frost is the only returning dwarf from what was an impressive cast in the first film – he is joined in this sequel by Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach (from one of my favourite TV programmes – Utopia). They provide the comic relief and are counter-pointed well by the goblins. These are horned, black creatures, dripping in bling, who are obsessed with mining and gold. They have an exciting battle with Eric (Hemsworth), Sara and the dwarves over the magic mirror – an object of great power that they are trying to prevent from falling into Queen Freya’s hands.

What the film does perhaps less well, is the slightly odd timeline that it covers. It is both prequel AND sequel to the first film, and this makes Kristen Stewart’s absence (as Snow White, who is now Queen of her own kingdom) even more noticeable. The main premise of the film is that Ravenna and now, Freya see love as a weakness, so they try to stamp it out in their kingdoms. Freya raises Eric and Sara as huntsmen, but when she notices them falling in love, she tears them apart. Both Hemsworth and Chastain look a little old to be playing the ‘young lovers’, but the casting of Chastain is quite a coup for a film such as this.

Yes, my attention wandered at times, but it tends to do so much more when watching a film at home, as opposed to the cinema. The world conjured up in this film is richly textured; from Freya’s northern kingdom of ice and snow, to the “sanctuary” – an idyllic green land of fairies and pixies. Blunt portrays Freya’s desperation well – her character is clearly torn between being bitterly angry at her own heartbreak and her desire to nurture her “children”. Theron is a stonking villain – her evil beauty quite something to behold. Hemsworth is as charming as ever and Chastain does show some impressive action skills in her scenes. Both Hemsworth and Chastain do possess terrible Scottish accents, however.

This film was never going to set the world alight, and many have expressed surprise that a sequel was even made to ‘Snow White and the Huntsman’. However, it is perfectly entertaining enough to while away an evening, if you like this sort of thing, which I do. This film also stands for something much more important than the sum of its parts – that three fantastic actresses can dominate a fantasy blockbuster – this shouldn’t be unusual or noteworthy, but sadly it still is. So, while the film is fair to middling, hopefully it is a sign of bigger and brighter things to come in terms of casting women. And, for that alone, it deserves a thumbs up.

Fiona’s rating: 6.5 out of 10
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