So, The Huntsman: Winter's War is about the sister of Queen Ravenna, Freya, who has a child with a man she falls in love with. Meanwhile, Ravenna asks the magic mirror if she is the loveliest of them all. Shortly after, their baby is murdered by her husband, who replies in horror, "I had to." Heartbroken, Freya turns her husband to ice and runs away from home to build an army in opposition to Ravenna. Her one rule is to not love, that love makes you weak and vulnerable. Two of the recruits fall in love anyway seven or so years into their recruitment, Eric and Sara, played by Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain. They simply can't help themselves. Eric is terrific with the axe and Sara is bountiful with the bow. When Freya finds out, their love - and want for revenge - may doom themselves, as well as both kingdoms, enough to ignite a Winter's War.
Now, something I should let you know is this movie takes place a lifetime. Not that it's overlong, just that years are spent in separation and isolation and I felt like that was an unnecessary pawn in the story. Basically, I wouldn't expect seven years to go by where Eric and Sara are the only people who ever dared to kiss, and that after seven years, Eric would never return to the belly of the beast. Considering his bravery, I don't believe him to hide away. And it is simply unhealthy for Freya to just hate hate hate for all that time. Anyway, the movie is also occasionally slow, but it really makes up for that not just with attentive set pieces and an interesting mystery surrounding the mirror and a surprise I didn't see coming (since I didn't watch the trailer) but also because the action is quite well choreographed and Chris Hemsworth doesn't always win like the buffy Thor we expect him to be.
There are also side characters that bring hilarity, not just jokes, to the table. I forget their names, but I swear, one of them is Nick Frost. There is also a dwarf lady named Mrs. Bronwin and the chemistry between these side characters and she (and her assistant) actually made me laugh out loud intentionally. Here's one joke. SPOILER ALERT "Where's the mirror?" "I don't have no bloody mirror." "That's obvious." Sorry. Hope I didn't spoil it.
SPOILER GONE So good choreography, decent characters, what else is there to warrant a recommendation? There's a reuniting in this movie that everyone will expect, but I didn't see the twist in this reunion coming. At all. And it sends an interesting message without saying it to your face, giving it there in a disposable way so it doesn't detract the plot if you don't get it and lets you think about it by yourself to get past the lagging parts. About an hour into the movie, there was a combination of events that made me close to not recommending it however. One was this questioning that felt forced and didn't make any sense, a type of excuse and shortcut into the next act. Another was this "You're on my side?" that we've seen in so many other films already and was hard to take seriously. I also wasn't sure why this bridge was cut; there was plenty of time for the character to cross it and cut it before they were in any real danger. And finally, there was a character death that the film seems to pass off of, something I really REALLY don't like in movies. But it actually fixes the last problem by the end and I then saw past that flaw and you'll understand why if you see the film. I also enjoyed the subject of love and hate in this film. Why does Freya think all love is poisonous? Do you feel that way about something else because of an event that happened to you? And there are also some nifty special effects that reminded me of some high fantasy stories that I did enjoy in my lifetime, and the ending, while predictable, thoroughly satisfied me.
In the end, The Huntsman: Winter's War was far from perfect, but the love topic intrigued me, I was captivated by Eric and Sara's story, and whenever the action lights up, it's hard not to admire.