ByTom Cox, writer at
Staff writer for Moviepilot. Tweet me @thomascox500
Tom Cox

The Huntsman: Winter's War is experiencing a freezing and violent blast of an unwelcome sort. Universal's attempt to magic up a fairytale franchise is trailing in the wilderness with no hero to save it, stumbling far from the pathway of success and deeper into the forest of failure. Following a chilly reception from its April 22 release in America, The Huntsman is set to lose around $70 million at the box office.

The reaction of The Huntsman's cast
The reaction of The Huntsman's cast

Universal will fail to make up the gold coins spent on the budget. It's tricky to work out exactly how poisonous 'twas the apple the studio bit with The Huntsman: Winter's War, as it does not release specific budget figures, but according to Box Office Mojo the production cost $115 million. Marketing probably fell around $70 million.

The movie is still showing in theaters around the world but it is fast approaching the end of its run. At the time of writing, the studio had made approximately $146.5 million. But, as studios only get around half of this take, cackling rivals think the fantasy adventure needs to make another $178.5 million to break even during its theatrical run.

The Huntsman's failure drove Snow onto the white
The Huntsman's failure drove Snow onto the white

The Huntsman faced stiff competition from Disney during its run, with The Jungle Book and Captain America: Civil War stealing from the pool of potential audience members as they rode a CGI-heavy wave of success.

There's still some hope. According to Variety, execs believe the film will pull in another $50 million total from cinemas, though obvi they have to share this so theaters can mop up popcorn spills. There's a measly chance of a late surge from shores in foreign locations like Greece and Japan, but that's about as likely as Universal doing a children's comedy called Snow White about cocaine addiction.

The Half-Baked Story Of The Huntsman: Winter's War

Freya is an Ice Queen, played by Emily Blunt (Looper, Edge of Tomorrow), who brings sister Ravenna, played by Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road, Hancock) back from the dead. The super-powerful gals plan to take over the Enchanted Forest. Ooh. However Thor, I mean da Hunt$man (Chris Hemsworth), and his lover Sara —performed by Jessica Chastain (Interstellar, The Martian) — have something to say about that.

Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron in The Huntsman
Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron in The Huntsman

The actual story of The Huntsman's production is perhaps a little bit more exciting. The sequel followed in the wake of successful 2012 picture Snow White and the Huntsman, with Rupert Sanders tipped to return as director and Kristen Stewart as the star.

However, all was not well in the enchanted wood. Photographs of Sanders and Stewart getting romantic were published in July 2012. This led to neither returning for the sequel, and much-delaying of production. Dropping successful ingredients of the predecessor's formula is highly unusual in film, and is probably in hindsight a bit of an error. I bet Stewart is now having major lols.

What could have been: Snow Hulk
What could have been: Snow Hulk

That was just the start of the troubles. Another director, Frank Darabont (The Walking Dead) left the project over creative differences. Eventual director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan switched into the captain's seat from his previous role of visual-effects supervisor. Relative newcomers Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt were introduced.

The aim of the fresh blood was to broaden the FCU (fairytale cinematic universe) beyond the realm of Stewart's Snow White. Basically, the seven dwarves would be like The Avengers!

Cold Reviews Of The Huntsman

The reviews have been frostier than the snow outside Beauty's castle. Rotten Toms deemed the movie a thoroughly decayed 16%.

Here are some of the choice scathing reviews:

1. One star from Peter Travers for Rolling Stone:

Pity poor studly Chris Hemsworth. 'The Huntsman: Winter's War,' the paltry prequel in which he again lends his mighty Thor abs to the title role, reduces him to eye candy.

Somewhere in the middle of this maddening mess, the Snow White story is obliquely wedged in and 'Winter's War' goes from prequel to sequel.

No one sings 'Let It Go,' but my advice to audiences is to do just that before mistakenly buying a ticket.

NFI'd: Kristen Stewart not in 'The Hunstsman'
NFI'd: Kristen Stewart not in 'The Hunstsman'

Travers says the movie is a mimicry of Frozen: In Elsa style, the sister Freya (Emily Blunt) gets aggro about a mean tick and retreats into her ice castle. Travers also claims the absence of Kristen Stewart, despite having a star-strewn cast, is a fatal flaw.

2. Two stars from Kate Taylor for The Globe and Mail:

Pity the little children who venture out to the movies these days; their cheery fables and simple tales have been turned into dark sagas for young adults.

Villainy, now a distractingly two-headed beast, is less satisfactorily presented [than Chris Hemsworth's huntsman] as Theron’s routine grows stale yet still manages to eclipse Blunt in a final scene where director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan loses his previously firm grip on the story and its emotions.

Christ Hemsworth has a big axe in The Huntsman
Christ Hemsworth has a big axe in The Huntsman

Taylor continued:

Meanwhile, the special effects — walls of ice and rivers of gold — are impressive, but there is nothing here to match Theron’s fantastical transformation into a flock of crows in the previous movie.

Unlike the smarter 'Maleficent,' a revisionist 'Sleeping Beauty' created by the same producers, what The Huntsman series lacks is any intriguing psychology. Freya is given the barest veil of a backstory while Ravenna just oozes ribbons of black bile (literally) for her own evil reasons. These women may be strong but they are never deep.

Taylor says it can be difficult to find a decent character to hold onto with the crowding from so many different people. She does, however, judge that there is a decent first act.

3. Plain old 'rotten' from A.O. Scott of the New York Times:

Is 'The Huntsman: Winter’s War' the worst movie of the year?
Every resonant theme or intriguing story possibility is stripped away and replaced with a ready-made franchise-movie conceit. The filmmakers compensate for emptiness with redundancy. There are two pairs of funny dwarves and two imperious villainesses and a love interest for the title character.
'Game of Thrones' or 'The Huntsman'? Jessica Chastain
'Game of Thrones' or 'The Huntsman'? Jessica Chastain
The movie is most awkward when it tries to hybridize its bedtime-story, Disney-stamped DNA with the genetic stock of contemporary cable drama. Its ideal audience seems to be 12-year-olds who secretly watch 'Game of Thrones' and 'Outlander,' or maybe their parents. There is not as much blood and skin on display here, of course, but the movie seems desperate for the grown-up credibility that hints of sex and gore might offer.

Scott gives the most damning review of The Huntsman: Winter's War in not finding an single pearl in the wide snowy horizon. He finds the attempt at sparking a franchise to be a misled failure.

4. MKM Partners analyst Eric Handler told Variety:

Good, not great: Charlize Theron
Good, not great: Charlize Theron
“The movie wasn’t very good. Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, and Chris Hemsworth are all good actors, but you don’t have anyone who is really a bankable lead.”

Handler isn't a usual reviewer. They are a corporation that provide market value-added research. The judgement is as close to objective as they come.

The Huntsman: Winter's War will hope to claw back some cash from DVD sales and television showings. It should also be noted that exit polls were pretty good with a B+ from a generally young female attendees. However, it seems certain that the combo of poor box office and critic reviews spells a long sleep for Universal's FCU.

What's your review of 'The Huntsman: Winter's War'?


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