The Huntsman returns, but boredom reigns

Anne Pritikin

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The overarching failure of “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” a prequel-sequel combination to the 2012 box office hit “Snow White and the Huntsman,” is its inability to engage the audience. Despite adequate acting and cinematography, the film suffers from a lack of emotional depth and character growth.

The first part of the movie, the prequel, depends heavily on narration to depict a time before Snow White’s existence, when the manipulative Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is still seizing power as her pure-hearted and less ambitious sister, Freya, (Emily Blunt) yearns for a simpler life. Freya’s unrealized powers, later to be realized post-betrayal, render her inferior to her older sister, a theme mind-numbingly drilled into the audience’s brains, whether it’s through Ravenna’s superior costuming or her threatening words.

Although the prequel portion of the film explains the sisters’ histories, it hardly straightens out the film’s unfocused plot, and it lacks certain crucial parts of the storyline that could have bridged the current movie to its predecessor.

Seven years and one betrayal later, Freya has become an emotionally fragile queen with icy powers who rules over a kingdom in the north, where she kidnaps and raises children to be a part of her “Huntsmen” army. Because of her own disappointments in love, she promises to protect her huntsmen from that damaging emotion and harshly trains them to be cold-hearted warriors.  

Unsurprisingly, two of her warriors fall in love and that is when Eric, the huntsman, (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) finally enter the picture as doomed lovers. However, the romance between the two is unremarkable at best; viewers half-heartedly root for the couple, but only because they feel obliged.

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Chris Hemsworth plays Eric the Huntsman in The Huntsman: Winter’s War.

Viewers find themselves frustratingly underwhelmed by the incohesive plot and emotionally uninvested in the characters’ relationships. The film’s predictable yet disjointed plot and script function together as the key that locks its coffin.

After discovering Eric and Sara’s relationship, Freya separates the lovers with an ice wall through which Eric watches Sara’s murder and Sara witnesses Eric abandon her. However, neither event took place in reality, as Freya used her powers to construct a mirage of their break-up. The source of the relationship’s discord feels contrived and superficial, as though only included to advance the plot.  

Meanwhile, Ravenna’s mirror has been disturbing Snow White, who orders its banishment from her castle. The mirror falls into the possession of goblins, ape-like creatures whose appearance is so incohesive with the rest of the movie’s animation that viewers are left to wonder if a poorly conceived, unrealistically violent video game was inadvertently spliced into the film.

All of the parts of the plot become a jumbled mess and events are never sufficiently developed to create a comprehensible storyline. The movie does not limit itself to one or even two genres, but is instead fantasy, adventure, romance and action, which could have worked had there been a tighter plot. The settings look like an amalgamation of “Narnia,” “The Hunger Games” and “The Lord of the Rings” with verdant forests to contrast with stark icescapes. The crude ape-like goblins and agender Tinkerbell-like sprites are unrefined when compared to the resplendent gowns of Ravenna and Freya.

Despite detailed settings and creative costuming, the absence of character development leaves viewers with a “Who cares?” feeling about the fate of its protagonists. None of the characters is especially changed by emotional or physical hardships, making for a dull 113 minutes.