There was one reason I wanted to see The Huntsman: Winter’s War. It was this.
Perhaps I was the only one as the film only made $20 million in its opening weekend compared to The Jungle Book, which made $60 million this weekend. You could argue we should be reviewing The Jungle Book over a prequel/sequel to a Grimm’s fairy tale. You may be right. But The Jungle Book has passages like: “And it is I, Raksha [The Demon], who answers. The man’s cub is mine, Lungri-mine to me! He shall not be killed. He shall live to run with the Pack and to hunt with the Pack; and in the end, look you, hunter of little naked cubs-frog-eater-fish-killer-he shall hunt thee! Now get hence, or by the Sambhur that I killed (I eat no starved cattle), back thou goest …” and so on. And there is a difference in hunks.
I also love swords and chainmail. I sat through 2 hours and 24 minutes of Kingdom of Heaven in the theater and will still watch it while channel surfing. The Huntsman has all the ingredients for a perfect film, imo: swords, archery, fantasy, and a great cast. However, it is loosely based on my least favorite fairy tale: Snow White.
If you haven’t read Grimm’s Snow White in a while, let me refresh your memory. Spoiler alert: there’s no true love’s kiss. That’s Disney, folks. In the Grimm’s fairy tale, Snow White is about as intelligent as a dodo. All she has going for her is she’s pretty, which is the reason her evil step-mother, the queen, wants her dead. After she goes Goldilocks on the seven dwarfs, they agree to let her stay because she’s so pretty – as long as she cooks, cleans, does their laundry, etc. Even though they tell her not to answer the door because her evil step-mama’s out there, Snow White does, not once, not twice, but three times, and the third times the charm. The queen tricks Snow White into eating the apple and the dumb girl dies. (Yes, she’s my least favorite princess, can you tell?) Along comes random Prince who falls in love with Snow White, takes her – glass coffin and all – from the dwarfs, and carries her around FOR YEARS! We ain’t talking dead for an hour or so. This chick has been dead and preserved FOR YEARS. But – oops! – the Prince’s royal coffin carriers drop her coffin, jarring the apple skin stuck in her throat loose, and Snow White wakes up to random dude she’s never met professing his love and will she marry him and be his queen/princess? She agrees. Again, dumbest – girl – ever. Then the evil queen has to dance until she dies or something like that.
Anywho, so that’s the real story. But The Huntsman isn’t quite based on this fairy tale. Yes, there is a huntsman who the evil queen orders to take Snow White into the woods and murder and return with her heart so she can eat it. (I’m starting to think I know where the term “grim” came from.)
But considering Emily Blunt’s character, you could argue it is a retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen Snow Queen fairy tale because we haven’t seen an ice queen on the silver screen recently.
But The Huntsman is more than that. It is Snow White meets The Snow Queen meets Frozen meets Lord of the Rings meets The Chronicles of Narnia meets Romancing the Stone meets pretty much every cliché out there. If you have no expectations, if you think this movie will be awful, you might enjoy it a little. I did.
The beginning narration is torturous to get through. It felt as if we were being read the story like children at bedtime. But at some point it disappeared. Perhaps I just quit listening once Chris Hemsworth showed up. As Rebecca said when we left the theater, the film couldn’t decide if it was a dark drama or a rambunctious action/adventure or a tortured romance. The tone was all over the place.
So were The Lord of the Rings references. Eric (Chris Hemsworth) is a master tracker, much like Aragorn, who is on a quest to find and destroy a round, golden item that whispers menacingly to those near it and possesses them. Nope. Haven’t seen that before. He senses that he and his band of hobbits, I mean dwarfs, have to get off the road, so they flee to Bree, I mean some other town at night in pouring down rain and seek refuge in the Prancing Pony, or identical tavern.
After his formerly dead wife Sara (Jessica Chastain) saves his ass, Eric, Sara, and the dwarfs set off to capture the ring, I mean the mirror, from goblins, who have more in common with Smaug than orcs. They get caught up in an Ewok trap, befriend their captors who agree not to eat them but help them on their quest through the forest via paddling boats on a river. I half expected to see Eric turn dramatically to the shoreline, sensing the Uruk-hai hot on their trail.
Instead, they retrieve the mirror, cross a Romancing the Stone-esq bridge of vines, and are confronted by Queen Freya (Emily Blunt) on a giant snow — something?
I don’t know what that animal was, but it was straight out of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. Sara betrays Eric and hands the mirror over to Queen Freya, who commands that she kills her husband. Her shot is true and Eric falls, but it hits the medallion that binds their love which prevents a fatal wound. Eric’s alive and as plucky as ever with his wink and a smile as he sets out on what he describes as a horrible plan but, hey, at least it is simple. After a fight between the Huntsman and the queens (because, oh yeah, Charlize Theron is back in the movie after being the mirror, or something), love conquers all.
Outside of the evil queen, Ravenna, there’s little Snow White in the film. There’s little Ravenna as well. They must’ve only been able to secure one week of shooting with Theron, so the powers that be told the writers to limit her scenes and the locations she’s in.
The Huntsman also borrows heavily from Frozen. Two royal sisters, one with ice-freezing magical powers, are estranged from each other due to one falling helplessly in love with a brunette. There’s no act of true love that saves them in The Huntsman. Spoiler Alert #1**** They both die. But Emily Blunt’s character sacrifices herself for her “children” in a twisted, almost redemptive story arc. Her character was the one I remain the most conflicted about. Charlize Theron you saw coming a mile away. Spoiler Alert #2**** You knew she was the real antagonist who killed Emily Blunt’s baby the moment you saw the flames in the tower, so not a shocking reveal at the end. She’s just crazy bitch #1. Chris Hemsworth’s Eric is lovable enough. He has some comedic moments that helped keep me invested in the story, but his character has no arc and arguable is not the protagonist. Jessica Chastain was decent. You never knew where her character stood, which was refreshing in contrast to Theron. But Queen Freya is the complex character and the one who actually goes through character transformations.
Should you go see The Huntsman: Winter’s War? That’s for you to decide. Besides stealing from numerous books and films and having a tonal confusion, it’s a fun popcorn movie. Reasons to see it: great actors, gorgeous costumes, funny moments, and the creepiest white owls around. Reasons not to: it’s just not that great of a movie. But I’ll probably still watch it while channel surfing.
Or just follow this blog.