Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Alexandra Roach, Sheridan Smith
Running Time: 1 hour 54 mins
Release Date: April 1st 2016
Not all fairytales are as simple as having a beginning, middle and end. Some intertwine themselves around each other, twisting back and forth through dark magic and hidden secrets. We all know the story of Snow White and the Huntsman, the battle they faced against the evil Queen Raveena but Cedric Nicolas-Troyan‘s new tale of good and bad goes far beyond the troubles that Kristen Stewart‘s Snow White faced.
Acting as both a prequel and sequel, The Huntsman: Winter’s War tells the story of Raveena’s dark return as her sister Freya struggles to control her army of Huntsman as the power of love threatens to destroy all she’s worked for. Mild, happy Freya dreamed of her happy ending of true love and a daughter but when her fairytale is cruelly taken away from her she transforms into the stone cold Queen of ice. Raising her army of stolen children, Freya demands they forget what love is and forbid them from ever falling in love each other. Our own Huntsman can’t help his love for childhood friend Sarah though and their connection forces a new war to erupt throughout the Kingdom; threatening all that cross its path.
While it’s a real delight to see the charismatic Chris Hemsworth reprise his role as the axe wielding, grin bearing, shirt stripping Huntsman, it’s the plethora of new female characters that really makes this film shine. With Charlize Theron returning as evil Queen Raveena, Emily Blunt starring as the frosty Freya and Jessica Chastain stepping in as the absolute bad ass Sara; there is such a sense of brilliant female power that runs throughout the narrative its hard not to feel empowered just watching these women work.
We’re already quite used to Theron’s brilliance as the mad, bad Queen Raveena but with new characters Freya and Sara stepping in to take the lead, it’s a joy to watch Blunt and Chastain make their mark on this fairytale franchise. Blunt is brilliant as the damaged Queen Freya. She plays her with a great mix of power and vulnerability, something that makes her so alluringly enigmatic despite her evil ways. We know she’s bad, it’s easy to see but knowing her past and her journey to power adds a strange sense of sympathy for our villain; especially in the films final act.
Chastain is an absolute powerhouse as Sara. Her stunts and fight scenes are so impressive that we find our own limbs twitch with each impressive move she makes. From air bending flips to bone breaking beatings; she oozes power and strength. With an impressive Scottish accent, Chastain fits into the narrative with real ease and her great chemistry with Hemsworth makes for some steamy snogging scenes.
Blunt, Theron and Chastain are all making their mark in Hollywood as picking out amazing, strong female roles and it really is wonderful to see the three of them thrive together in this film. With it’s subject matter and fantasy genre, it’s rewarding to think that perhaps younger viewers will watch this film and notice not one but three female characters at its centre. It’s great to see all three of them in their roles, villains and heroes, because they’re all multi-layered and complex; showing off a variety of skills from the talented women.
In saying this, we cannot forget the importance of Hemsworth to the film’s narrative, for he is our Huntsman. Hemsworth reprises his role with the same kind of sweet charm and strength that captured our hearts in the first film. His comedic timing and delivery is showcased more in THE HUNTSMAN and he continues to prove that he’s far more than just an action guy. Still, he really is brilliant in the fight scenes. Hemsworth’s physical talents show real commitment and dedication to his role and it’s clear from his performance that his role as The Huntsman is one he truly enjoys.
While the characters are impressive, the narrative itself isn’t the film’s strongest feature. The difficulty with THE HUNTSMAN is that it often feels like we’ve seen it all before in one way or another. All the important themes or character features feel all too familiar, often feeling like regurgitated material. In this case, it isn’t necessarily anybody’s fault. It’s this industry notion of recycling anything that sells. It makes sense of course, from a business perspective but one can’t help but feel it cheapens material to carbon copies of each other; rarely bringing anything new to the table and therefore perhaps jarring out imagination to fully delve into the world we’re presented with.
However, these issues do not make this film in question any less enjoyable. There is great fun to be had in this fairytale where Queen’s rule with a frozen fist and rebels fight for their right to love. There’s no doubt that the tone for THE HUNTSMAN feels much lighter then its predecessor and huge comic relief comes in the form of comedy geniuses Nick Frost and Rob Brydon. Frost reprises his role as dwarf Nion while Brydon joins the gang as his Welsh half-brother Gryff. The pair bounce off each other with exceptionally funny expertise and keep a nice flow of silly humour running through some of the more tense scenes.
The comedy kicks up a notch when they’re joined by Alexandra Roach and Sheridan Smith as two bad ass lady dwarfs, Doreena and Mrs. Bromwyn. With the four of them all throwing in their own style of humour, we’re left with brilliant chemistry between some wonderfully light-hearted, but essential characters. Sheridan Smith proves to be a particular highlight as her zero tolerance Mrs. Bromwyn takes on Gryff’s giant ego; leading to some pretty funny insults being thrown around.
One of the real triumphs for the film is the stunning costume that enhances each scene with such a wonderful sense of magic and fantasy. Costume designer Colleen Atwood is known for her beautiful work in the likes of SLEEPY HOLLOW, EDWARD SCISSOR HANDS and INTO THE WOODS but some of her very best work is features within THE HUNTSMAN. With glorious gowns that shimmer gold and blue, voluminous capes that billow with each movement, fierce jewelry and incredible warrior gear; Atwood helps to create a world of sheer imagination and fantasy.
If you’re looking for something entirely new and different from the fantasy genre then THE HUNTSMAN might find you a little disappointed. There’s a faint feeling of familiarity that runs throughout the narrative but it truly doesn’t disrupt the great sense of fun that pours out of each scene. With an all-star cast and some wonderful characters, THE HUNTSMAN goes beyond what we know of the classic Snow White fairytale and tells a story of how love really can conquer all.