The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Review by David Jenkins @daveyjenkins

Directed by

Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Starring

Chris Hemsworth Emily Blunt Jessica Chastain

Anticipation.

Snow White and the Huntsman was… not so good.

Enjoyment.

It’s a bit of a mess, but with some charming character turns.

In Retrospect.

Please, please, please: no more Huntsman movies. Thanks!

This originality-neutral trawl through a fairy tale fantasy world is saved by the comedy sidekicks.

Let’s hear it for little guys, the noble comedy sidekick, often just tossed in to some po-faced wannabe blockbuster for light relief. It doesn’t seem like there’s much else to discuss when it comes to Cedric Nicolas-Troyan’s The Huntsman: Winter’s War, a featureless, self-assembly adventure flick which, even though its cast is primarily female, ends up placing the lone male as the chest-beating hero.

A garbled quest narrative, creakily built around the antics of 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman and some howling och-aye-the-noo! Scottish accent work, is leavened no end by British comedy stalwarts Rob Brydon and Nick Frost, playing bickering dwarves who lope in the backdrop and fire saucy zingers back at Chris Hemsworth while he keeps time looking buff and sexy.

But wait, there’s more. While the central female cast of Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt do little to lift the film above similar fantasy-based middle-weights, Sheridan Smith comes galloping to the rescue, yet again as comic relief, her timing, delivery and happy emersion within this silly universe leaving her A-list counterparts in the dust. She is thrust into the plot about half way, and the film as a whole instantly gains a pulse. Her silver-tongued back-and-forths with Brydon are an obvious highlight, as is a wantonly gooey romantic subplot involving Frost and Smith’s dwarvish cohort played by Alexandra Roach. Yes, there’s kung-fu axe showdowns, minions getting beaten down bloodlessly with ornamental staffs, and much rhubarbing about the fate of the kingdom, but its impact is negligible compared to the frivolous banter occurring just below the neck-line.

Blunt plays naffed off ice queen Freya. A abortive puppy love turns to a life of imperialist violence when someone sets fire to her newborn baby in its crib, which is understandable. The underling boyf is blamed, but there’s always an inkling that Charlize Theron’s Ravenna (later slain by Snow White but waiting in the aisles for an chance to return and do some evil) might’ve played some part in the deed. Freya sets up shop, massacres the locals, steals their kids and trains them up as double-hard assassins who wear figure-hugging leather slacks. Two of them grow into Hemsworth and Chastain. They fall in love, but no, no, no, love is not allowed under this new regime, and so they’re banished from Freya’s guard.

It’s not entirely clear where things go from there. There’s still a magic mirror, though its purpose seems to be administering a temporary mind-fucking to whomever stares into it. Things roll on and roll out. There’s precious little ambition on show, and so the fact that the hectic climax is trimmed of all but necessary detail, to the point where it seems like we’re watching a montage of continuity errors, is forgivable. It doesn’t do much that’s right or memorable, though you could hardly call mediocrity a cardinal sin. And still, there’s the funny side players to cherish while the others slash at one-another’s oily tentacles in a dull battle for the future of humanity. If further Huntsman world building is required, let’s go full-tilt comedy and have Sherdian Smith in the lead.

Published 4 Apr 2016

Anticipation.

Snow White and the Huntsman was… not so good.

Enjoyment.

It’s a bit of a mess, but with some charming character turns.

In Retrospect.

Please, please, please: no more Huntsman movies. Thanks!

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