I’ve never seen a movie quite like The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a truly terrible movie, one of the worst I’ve ever seen. But if nothing else, it’s a true marvel of innovation. It’s the only movie I’ve ever seen that is a prequel, and also a sequel, and also manages to retcon the entire first movie. It stars Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, and Charlize Theron, and is damn near unwatchable (unless you’re laughing through the entire thing, as the Adversion writers were). And it’s so stupid, that in order to make fun of it, all you have to do is literally describe what happens. Little to no editorializing necessary.
So here goes:
PREVIOUSLY IN THE SNOW WHITE FRANCHISE:
Snow White thought she was in love with William, her best friend from childhood played by Sam Claflin. But then she meets Chris Hemsworth, and it’s all downhill from there. Understandable.
The Huntsman tells her about his poor, sweet wife who died years before. They fall in love, and share true love’s kiss, and Snow White kicks Charlize Theron’s ass. So in the present timeline, wife=dead. Ravenna=dead. Huntsman and Snow White=true love. Just so we’re clear on that.
Emily Blunt plays Ravenna’s sister, Queen Freya, who is basically an evil version of Princess Elsa. She has an impossibly cute baby who is burned to death by her lover, because all men are evil and love isn’t real, or something.
Evil Elsa reacts to this traumatic event by kidnapping an army of child soldiers and yelling at them that love doesn’t exist, as you do.
We meet an adorable tiny version of Chris Hemsworth. Tiny Eric is standing behind something, the camera pans around, and when it finishes, he’s Chris Hemsworth. Because that’s how puberty works.
Eric falls in love with his compatriot Sara (Jessica Chastain, sporting an absurdly bad Scottish accent). Love montage!
They get married after approximately two minutes, but little do they know Evil Elsa is spying on them with the most amazing piece of tech I’ve ever seen: a plastic feathered mask that allows her to see through the eyes of a ROBOTIC OWL DRONE MADE OF ICE.
So since love doesn’t exist, Evil Elsa kills Sara after about fifteen minutes of screentime. We’re not upset, only confused as to why they cast Jessica Chastain as a character who necessarily had to be killed off.
Here’s where this movie gets amazing. The ridiculous, deep-voiced narration (from FREAKING LIAM NEESON) tells us that “days turned into weeks, weeks turned into years,” and now we’re somehow watching a movie that takes place AFTER Snow White and the Huntsman.
William finds Eric and tells him that Snow White has gone crazy because she got her hands on Ravenna’s Magic Mirror, even though her character has never had a hint of vanity. But, let’s be real, bitches love those mirrors, amirite?
Inexplicably, the entire plot turns on Eric going on a mission to help Snow White find the mirror, but we’re given no explanation as to what happened in their relationship, and Snow White never actually appears.
I take that back: they’re not even shy about snubbing Kristen Stewart, and they actually show Snow White from the back in the most awkward non-cameo of all time. Jeez, the Twilight movies weren’t that bad guys.
(That was the reason she wasn’t asked back, right? It wasn’t an egregious example of victim-blaming and slut-shaming? Oh okay, good, I was worried for a second there.)
Eric runs into the only two dwarves who would agree to be in this movie, and there are lots of jokes about their stature (because they’re DWARVES. HAHA GET IT??), and the inherent grossness of female dwarves. Because cooties, or something. [kht: Or because women who don’t fit society’s standard of beauty are disgusting. Which is sort of what Charlize Theron has been saying all along.]
Now that Kristen Stewart got the axe, only one thing can happen: Jessica Chastain is still alive, because of course she is. Which means that all of that “dead wife” whining from the first movie is rendered completely moot.
It turns out Evil Elsa gave Eric a vision to make him think that Sara was dead, and gave Sara a vision to make her think Eric had left her. So there’s no actual conflict in their relationship, but she’s really mad at him anyway.
Eric, in turn, decides to do some healthy slut-shaming, and berates her about whether she was “true” to him. When she insists she was, he says he was “always true to her.”
WHAT. THE. FUCK.
WHAT MOVIE DID I WATCH FOUR YEARS AGO.
YOU HAD TRUE LOVE’S KISS.
[jd: To be fair, this scene comes right before she betrays them to Evil Elsa, so it’s hard to tell whether the laziness of the writing here is in rewriting the whole first movie, or in pretending that the only thing on anyone’s mind in this scene is political, rather than marital, fidelity. I agree that the first is more likely, since it seems like this whole movie was written over a single evening, during a drinking game.]”
The huntsmen and dwarves fight giant black monster-goblins that look vaguely like the CGI dogs from The Hunger Games. The goblins are made of tar–because why not–so Eric sets a fire and everything within a 30-foot radius is burned to a crisp. [jd – correction: Sara sets the fire with a fire arrow, using flint-and-tinder that the dwarves found 5 minutes before. Because that’s what needed to be justified in this scene: how she gets some fire. Not how he survives being under a fire made of 50,000 pounds of exploding tar goblins.]
We literally just saw Eric burn to death in front of our eyes, but he’s still alive, completely unscathed. No explanation.
At some point, Emily Blunt is shown rocking an empty cradle she made out of ice, remembering her dead baby, and then screams “NO FIRE!!!” at a hapless servant who comes in with a lantern. JD starts laughing hysterically, because he is heartless. (Just kidding, it’s hilarious.)
Sara betrays them to Evil Elsa, but Eric thinks they’re still true lurve because she refrained from killing him. Healthy.
But on the plus side, we get to see Emily Blunt ride up in metallic silver shoulder pads. While casually riding a polar bear:
Now here’s where things somehow get even crazier. Evil Elsa gets her hands on the mirror, and gold liquid comes out of it and turns into Charlize Theron. Because that’s how Charlize Theron works now.
The dwarves rightly protest at ableist jokes comparing them to children. [kht: ableist jokes about how short women are gross, though, are fine. [jd: to be as fair as possible to this movie, the dwarves’ interactions in the last 15 minutes seemed to indicate that the ugly-female-dwarf jokes from the first part of the movie were wrong and not ok, and were caused by some bizarre combination of dwarven gender politics and low self-esteem. kht was asleep for the last 15 minutes, and so missed this subtle re-consideration. One could also argue that a movie has to earn the right to subtlety by keeping its audience awake.] Then they sneak into the kingdom by blending in with the children. Solid.
Eric infiltrates the castle for an epic final battle with Ravenna, in which she alternately displays regeneration abilities like a golden T-1000, and occasionally just gives up and turns into gold birds.
It’s revealed that Ravenna tricked Freya’s lover into killing their child. So all men aren’t evil, yay! (But between Ravenna, Evil Elsa, Sara, and the cootie-riddled lady dwarves, women are a little more questionable.)
Evil Elsa joins the fight, and raises an ice wall (see what I mean??). But Ravenna is behind it with her, so it literally does nothing except force Freya’s allies to scale it. [jd: it does stop her from killing them briefly, but, wonderfully, after we waste about a minute of screen time on ice climbing, the wall collapses as they get to the top, and they fall on the same side they started from, so that literally nothing was achieved. Hooray?]”
After a long and surreal battle [jd: featuring a kung-fu-movie-style face-off between Eric and Ravenna, once everyone else is conveniently stabbed or bonked on the head or whatever, that actually starts with the actual line “Are you ready, Huntsman?!?” Seriously. Drinking game.], Evil Elsa freezes the mirror and Eric breaks it with his axe. (Because Ravenna IS the mirror, remember? Remember that that’s a thing?)
Charlize Theron inexplicably starts spitting tar, turns gold, and then shatters into gold pieces.
All is well, Liam Neeson tells us. Eric and Sara end up together, all of the evil queens are dead, and “Snow White’s kingdom is safe.” (Oh, NOW you care about Snow White. I’m so sure.)
Then he finishes it off with a vague reference to Ravenna’s story “not being over,” and a gold bird flitting through the shot.
No, Liam Neeson. Just no.