Chris Hemsworth might not be the greatest actor on the planet, but, love him or hate him, the dude is charismatic as all get out. And Hemsworth’s hunky, movie star charms have rarely been put to better use than they are in the so-bad-it’s-good Snow White and the Huntsman prequel The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Of course, that doesn’t mean this is Hemsworth’s best role to date (his hilarious turn as Ed Helm’s epically-endowed brother-in-law in Vacation will always hold that honor in my book) but rather that I was never happier to see his big, handsome mug onscreen than I was here.
Simply put, Hemsworth takes what could have been a cheesy, straight-to-video money grab and makes it, through sheer star power, into a fun, totally watchable, summer popcorn flick. Don’t get me wrong, The Huntsman is still a cheesy, big studio money grab that feels more like a contractual obligation than a movie, but if you’re up for some howlingly bad inflight cinema the next time you fly, this is definitely the flick for you.
And speaking of movie star wattage, this time around Hemsworth isn’t the only bright, shiny thing in the firmament. No longer saddled with Kristen Stewart’s sulky, sad-eyed Snow White, Hemsworth’s brawny Huntsman, Eric, gets to emote valiantly with three of the finest actresses working in Hollywood today, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron, and the resulting fireworks are kind of spectacular to behold. Although I’m still not exactly sure why prestige players like Chastain and Blunt are even in this movie, I’m fairly certain Theron pocketed a tidy little paycheck for her return as the scenery-chomping Evil Queen from the previous film, so, good for her. And no matter why they’re here, when you toss Chastain, Blunt and Theron into the mix onscreen with Hemsworth, some killer visual effects, breathtaking scenery and beautiful costumes, somehow, it all just works.
And though I’m not sure if The Huntsman is campy or good-bad enough to warrant a true cult following, I’m pretty sure there is a wicked good drinking game in here somewhere. Hell, even if you just sip your alcoholic inflight beverage of choice every time Hemsworth or Chastain slip out of their cringe-worthy, his-and-her Scottish brogues you’ll be sloshed before your plane reaches cruising altitude. The fact that both actors have mastered believable accents elsewhere (Chastain, for instance, nailed a spot-on English accent in Crimson Peak) makes me wonder if the sound person, or the director, or anyone for that matter, was actually, you know, listening when they shot the movie. Either way, Hemsworth and Chastain’s awful accents are a huge part of the fun and bring to mind the sword and sandals epics of yore where people like John Wayne played Genghis Kahn.
Technically a prequel and a sequel (don’t ask), story wise, The Huntsman is just more of the same revisionist fairy tale mish-mash from the first film with a big old dash of Frozen thrown in for good measure. The fact that the film was written by two guys (Craig Mazin and Evan Spiliotopoulos) who cut their teeth writing late in the franchise sequels like Scary Movie 3 and 4 and Cinderella 3: A Twist in Time tells you everything you need to know about the story. And the fact that The Huntsman was directed by Oscar-nominated visual effects maestro Cedric Nicolas-Troyan tells you exactly where the director focused most of his time and energy. But hey, I’m not complaining, like I said above, the visual effects in The Huntsman are really gorgeous, especially Theron’s freaky, shape-shifting magic mirror and Blunt’s live action Queen Elsa routine.
In fact, maybe it’s better that Troyan was so wrapped up with the visuals. I mean, had he actually worked with the cast to firm up their motivation or back stories, they might not have gifted us with such wonderfully off-kilter performances and The Huntsman might have been a lot less fun. You know, kind of like the first movie.
Now playing on select American Airlines, JetBlue, EVA Air, Delta, Alaska Airlines, Emirates and Air France flights worldwide, The Huntsman: Winter’s War is also available via streaming at iTunes, Google Play and Amazon Video.