Part prequel, part sequel, The Huntsman: Winter’s War suffers from a serious identity crisis. Opening as a prequel to the 2012 film Snow White and the Huntsman it quickly turns into a sequel instead. It soon becomes clear that the filmmakers weren’t completely sure what they wanted the film to be. The result is a story to convoluted to matter.
As the film begins, the focus is on the rise to power of Ravenna (Charlize Theron), and the special relationship she shares with her then non-magical sister, Freya (Emily Blunt). However, everything changes when Freya finds herself betrayed. With blinding vengeance on her mind, Freya heads North to create her own empire, raising an army of orphaned children to act as her protectors, while forbidding any kind of love within the kingdom.
Two of those soldiers grow up to be Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain). They fall in love and as you might have guessed, are forcibly separated. The plot sort of intersects with Snow White’s. Ravenna has been destroyed. Nonetheless, her magic mirror is still out there, and whoever ends up with it will have limitless power. Eventually, reunited, Eric and Sara join forces to find the mirror, in an effort to keep Freya from finding it first.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War has a star-studded cast. Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt are both wonderfully evil as the nasty sisters fighting for power. Hemsworth and Chastain are good too, while Nick Frost provides a few comedic moments as a dwarf who helps them out. The film is visually impressive. The sets and the costumes are stunning. The special effects are convincing throughout, creating a real sense of fantasy with the overall look of the kingdom and the creatures. One of the best scenes in the film involves Eric and Sara taking on a half-human/half-ram creature.
Unfortunately, the story is mediocre. The plot is all over the place and never comes together. In acting as a prequel of sorts, Winter’s War is put in the position of having to justify itself. Kristen Stewart’s withdrawal from the project met that the story had to be reworked, but the result is rather bland. Writer’s Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin where obviously thinking big, but it’s as if they just put a bunch of big ideas on paper without any real connection. Let’s face it, a sequel to Snow White without Snow White is just…strange.
Presented in the 2.40:1 aspect ratio, Universal’s 4K presentation is a fairly strong one. Though there’s a little bit of source noise evident in the blue skies, the intricate details in the costumes and set pieces are very impressive. The depth is good, offering up a real three dimensionality quality. The black levels are spot on; well balanced and inky throughout. Fleshtones appear a bit warm at times, but they always look natural. There’s no artifacts or dirt to complain about.
Though my comments here are based solely on my viewing of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of The Huntsman: Winter’s War, it’s worth noting that both the 4K UHD disc and the 1080p Blu-ray contain a DTS:X Immersive Audio surround track. James Newton Howard’s score spreads across all channels, without drowning out dialogue or effects. Panning is well used and LFE adds some additional punch.
English SDH, Spanish and French subtitles are included.
The following extras are available:
- Extended Edition (HD, 2:00:10) Just over six minutes of additional footage.
- Audio Commentary with Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: The director offers a detailed commentary, covering the locations, effects, and performances in the film. If you’re a fan of the movie, this one is well worth a listen.
- Deleted Scenes (HD) There are four in total with optional commentary with director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. The scenes are as follows: “Freya Says Goodbye to Ravenna” (0:50), “Young Eric and Sara Fight” (2:20), “Eric Finds Passage to Hidden Forest” (3:18) and “Freya Beats Ravena in Chess” (2:26).
- Gag Reel (HD, 9:43) The usual flubs and screw-ups.
- Winter Vistas: The Making of The Huntsman: Winter’s War (HD) Split into five parts, with no option to play as one piece. Two Queens and Two Warriors (7:22), Meet the Dwarfs (8:10), Magic All Around (8:44), Dressed to Kill (6:03), and Love Conquers All (5:58).
- Digital HD Copy: A code to redeem a digital copy through Ultraviolet or iTunes. Redeeming will also get you UHD access to the title on Vudu.