You’d think that by

  1.  dropping the less-than-convincing lead actress Kristen Stewart (due to her scandalous affair with her Snow White and the Huntsman director) from the cast,
  2. adding 5-time Golden Globe nominee Emily Blunt,
  3. who plays a new character that Disney had fashioned into dream Princess Elsa,
  4.  and giving more screen time to Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth that The Huntsman: Winter’s War will be a much better prequel than the 2012 remake of Snow White.

Unfortunately, the movie operates rather like a certain exchange between Hemsworth’s titular Huntsman role and Gryff the dwarf: “Have you got a plan?” “Aye.” “Is it any good?” “… No.”

The backstory of the huntsman starts 7 years before the arrival of Snow White.

Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), obsessed with being the fairest in the kingdom, is told by her magic mirror that her newborn niece will grow up to rival her beauty. Without wasting time, Ravenna has the baby killed and convinces her younger sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), that the babe’s father was responsible for the infant’s death.

Distraught at her utter betrayal by her love, Freya’s icy Snow Queen power is forcefully unleashed, rather like beautiful but naive Theodora who transforms into the green-skinned Wicked Witch of the West in Oz the Great and Powerful when she thought she was cheated in love. As they say, hell hath no fury like a woman scorned…


With a heart emptied of love but filled with ambition, Freya begins to build her own kingdom, in the far North and conquers land after land with her army of Huntsmen (children she’d stolen from their parents and trained to wield weapons). Meanwhile, Ravenna has a face-off with Snow White.

Disillusioned as she is with love, Freya forbids her Huntsmen the pleasure either. This rule is challenged by Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) who have fallen for each other. However, a bigger evil exists even after Ravenna is vanquished by Snow White. Rather like Lord Voldemort from the Harry Potter series, Ravenna had entwined her soul with her mirror to keep a remnant alive to return from the dead. The duo, helped by the dwarves, are forced on an epic adventure to get hold of the mirror (in which Ravenna has taken refuge) before Freya does.


Unfortunately, the ending was a misfire. One would also have expected — given the title, Winter’s War — that there would be an actual ‘war’ at the end. Even if it’s not a full-fledged Lord of the Rings war, surely it has to at least be of a larger scale than just several Huntsmen challenging 1 evil queen. This isn’t so much of a ‘war’, as a ‘petty skirmish’ in our opinion.

While the ending was an anti-climax, it still did more for the film than the continuity errors and bad editing. Remember the detestable brother of Ravenna, Finn, in Snow White and the Huntsman? What ever happened to him in this film, or at least the first half of it? Like Snow White, he seemed to have vanished.

Another thing that bugged us was the scene where Eric valiantly sacrificed himself by getting his friends to cross the bridge — after which he tore down the bridge — while he warded off the goblins. The obvious question is how Eric managed to cross to the other side. The entire scene felt pretty unsatisfying and incomplete given that little plot hole. But the worst edited scene would be where Eric and Sara were kissing intimately. Then suddenly while they were in the midst of that, the scene abruptly cut to another completely irrelevant one. Perhaps it’s the censor at work, it’s after all a PG-13 film,  but couldn’t the scene be more smoothly transitioned?


Despite all that, we have to say that this film’s still better than Snow White and the Huntsman. The humor was actually laugh-out-loud funny. Some notable lines would include what Gryff (Rob Brydon) told baffled Eric after Sara betrayed the group and shot an arrow at her lover: “She’s not a cupid. I doubt an arrow to your chest is an expression of her love.” In another scene Gryff and Mrs Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith) were trying to disguise themselves as children in order to sneak into Freya’s castle. However, they were stopped by a suspicious guard who told them to raise their heads. In Mrs Bromwyn’s defence, Gryff told the guard: “She was hit in the face as a baby… with a rock.” That gave us a hearty laugh.

The Snow White film received a well deserved Academy Award nomination for Best Visual Effects, remember that gorgeously animated white stag with a mesmerizing gaze? However, first-time director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan seems to have dropped the fairyland feel for a Dungeons & Dragons look this time. This change isn’t bad. In fact it gives us something fresh to look forward to. Whether or not The Huntsman will get nominated for another visual effects Oscar is hard to say, given other recently released shows like Batman v Superman and The Jungle Book, rocked in the VFX department as well.

We mustn’t forget Halsey’s “Castle”. This song (also played in the trailer) is part of the young American’s debut album, Badlands, which was released last August. The track’s brooding feel, blends nicely with Halsey’s slightly husky voice. The lyrics: “I’m headed straight for the castle / They want me to be their queen…”, along with the electropop tempo, fit in nicely with the entire concept of the 2 queens atop their thrones. Already gathering hype from its exposure on the trailer, this song, we suspect, is going to get a lot of airplay time on radios pretty soon.


Here’s a little trivia for UrbanWire’s Singaporean readers: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain and Charlize Theron from the cast of The Huntsman: Winter’s War were in Singapore, Apr 3, for a red carpet movie premiere at Universal Studios Singapore, when the movie hasn’t even opened in the United States. In fact, it’s the first premiere held at USS. The façade of Pantages Hollywood Theater in Universal Studios Singapore was completely transformed to hold a 20-meter tall castle (similar to the ice castle in the movie). The imposing building will remain there only till May 2 — so check it out if you haven’t already!

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Release Date: 14 April 2016

Runtime: 114 minutes

Language: English

Censorship Rating: PG 13

Genre: Adventure/Fantasy

Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Featured Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron

Photos courtesy of United International Pictures