Erin Graham ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
It’s ironic that a movie so focused on a mirror finds itself grappling with a debilitating identity crisis: its tone is torn between a child’s fairytale and dark fantasy epic, its temporal placement a careless jumble of prequel and sequel, and its conflict lost to absent adversaries.
The first half hour or so of The Huntsman: Winter’s War sets up the power clash between Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and her sister, Freya (Emily Blunt). Murder plots and power plays manifest in ever unoriginal chess metaphors and Theron’s majestically raspy voice that’s so forced audience members could find themselves taking deeper breaths on her behalf.
After Ravenna secures her power against everyone but the pesky specter Snow White, Freya’s daughter is killed, galvanizing her to run off and form an ice castle. In some kind of grotesque tribute to Footloose, she rounds up young children, brings them to her fortress to train as her army, and promptly bans all forms of love. From this point onward, Ravenna disappears from the plot and is replaced by Freya’s most skilled warriors, Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain). Suddenly the plot moves from prequel to sequel, and Snow White’s success becomes this distant threat addressed sparingly in the dialogue. Eric is forced from the castle and must unite with a group of dwarves to procure the powerful mirror and secure Snow White’s power once and for all.
In theory, the plot seems sound, but it’s about as flaky as the oddly shiny snow falling constantly around Freya. The reasons for Freya’s flight from her sister’s kingdom aren’t really clear, and Ravenna’s abrupt absence from the plot seems like an afterthought the post-production team tossed aside as they mashed together puzzle pieces that didn’t really fit. The momentum of the movie seemed to yearn for ideological conflict and warfare between the two sisters, but the sell-out plot demanded that Eric take center stage and confuse the crux of the film.
Eric’s presence is bolstered by the dwarf characters that operate more as mere vehicles for Eric to look off into the distance and theatrically mutter an important plot point than as interesting, three-dimensional characters.
The movie’s strength derives from the spectacle of it all, perhaps the one area where it doesn’t fail. The effects are holistically stunning, with mirrors becoming gold entities and entire walls of ice embodying ideological conflict. Most of the fight scenes are well-coordinated and entertaining but often have little plot importance and seem like excuses to flaunt masculinity acting under a façade of plot importance.
At best, The Hunstman: Winter’s War is an entertaining fantasy epic. But its aesthetic and tone are too often at odds with one another, making snowy owl spies look absurd in scenes dedicated to adult romance and making scenes with marital banter between a man and woman look silly while Liam Neeson narrates as if it’s a children’s story. Perhaps it should be judged as such.
Overall Grade: C
Watch The Trailer: