Winter’s War does exactly as expected, no more, no less: predictable storylines, dazzling effects, epic score, characters provided for (light) comic relief, stoic (and perhaps flat) heroine, and overdramatic villains all delivered alongside a catered and catchy pop song.
When the french horns start on James Newton Howard’s score for The Huntsman: Winter’s War, maybe you’ll have the same question I did: Does this opening song sound eerily familiar to The Nightmare Before Christmas?
It might will be the only question you ask for the next 120 minutes. With little suspense, and a predictable plot, Jessica Chastain’s hair has more twists than the film does.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War follows the same recipe as it’s Snow White predecessor: Choose the “it girl of the moment” known for epic songs (This time Halsey; Last time, Florence + the Machine); loosely base the film on a Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale, hire well known and celebrated actors but flatten them out, add a handsome man to look at and… there you have it. Really. It’s Frozen with the campiness of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Mr. Freeze and the accents of Brave. Except in this “extended” story of Snow White, you walk away with the following message: Love wins, but family could kill you. And that is definitely no Disney movie.
The core problem with the Huntsman is a clear disconnect between the intended suspense and the storyline itself. In fact, the trailers and the synopsis give the whole thing away. So what are we left with? Not much: Eye candy, attempted Scottish accents, a bit of dry humor, and some fight scenes. Next time, instead of taking over lands, the sister queens should consider sending the Huntsman to find some suspense (or should it be Huntsmen?).
Now, this is definitely not a nightmare. There is some promise here; some spring flowers amongst the winter, if you will. Even in the ice age, Emily Blunt reminds us that she’s the real Screen Queen. Her role was demanding and she delivered. Will it finally win her much deserved Oscar? Probably not. But does it prove that she can literally work with ANY material? Yes indeed, and that is a real achievement.
The other achievement is exemplified in the credits. The credits were not the best part of the film because the movie was over, but because exploding items captured at high speed timed to Halsey’s song “Castle” was the most compelling story yet. And in fact, here your questions will finally return: What WILL happen to that flying arrow? How WILL that crown disintegrate?
It might be the only thing that keeps you on the edge of your seat.