By: Akram Shaban

I watched a hipster YouTube video the other day that claimed there were almost no more A-List actors because so many keep starring in bad movies. After seeing Criminal with its “star-studded cast”, and now the subject of this review, I can see the hipster’s point. But, because I’m bored and struggling to landa full-time job, I’m going to make the case for The Huntsman: Winter’s War. There is nothing like analysing a movie beyond its intended themes to make it seem better.

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Charlize Theron as Ravenna The Queen in The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Winter’s War drags you into its marvellous mental breakdown primarily with a really good trailer, and some sweet, sweet eye candy. It has Chris “I can’t do a Scottish Accent” Hemsworth as Eric the Huntsman, and Jessica “at least I tried” Chastain as Sara the Huntswoman. Charlize Theron is Ravenna the Queen, and Emily Blunt is her younger sister, Queen Freya. The story revolves around a mirror which tells you who’s the prettiest of them of all if you ask nicely. It also grants powers, I think.

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Jessica Chastain as Sara the Huntswoman and Chris Hemsworth as Eric the Huntsman in The Huntsman: Winter’s War

One night Ravenna was getting her regular vanity fix when the mirror dropped some shocking truth: she won’t be hot forever. Instead, Freya’s newborn daughter will grow up to surpass her in beauty, even though the baby daddy is some commoner. But as soon as you think the plot won’t get any more intriguing, the mirror brings out his inner Billy Mays and says “but wait there is more!” For just a one-time payment of infanticide, Ravenna gets to remain the prettiest, but her sister’s powers will be unleashed. Freya witnesses her lover murder her newborn (Ravenna manipulates him somehow), and that is how evil Elsa is made.

Freya runs to a land far away and starts conquering things left and right. She raises her own kingdom and declares that there is only one law: no love allowed. She compiles an original thesis about how the mind commits self-sabotage because of intrinsic evolutionary handicaps. She cites love as the main blinding mechanism, recalling her own experience when she was betrayed by the things dearest to her. But the prof rejects her paper and gives her a D-, noting her lack of scholarly and peer-reviewed sources, and a clear personal agenda exposing her bias. The same thing happened to Dr. Brand in Interstellar, who went the “love transcends time and space” route. Although, Freya would argue that Dr. Brand fell victim to love’s mischievous ways. Of course, there is a glaring contradiction in Freya’s thinking. She calls all the subjects of her kingdom “my children,” which indicates love. Some may call this a plot hole. I call it an over analyzer’s dream.

So after being rejected by her prof, Freya does what any failed pseudo-academic fascist with supernatural ice powers would do. She projects her grudge onto her subjects and forces everyone to see her genius. That’s where Eric and Sara come into the picture. Not only are they the best ‘huntspersons’ in her kingdom, but they’re also in love. I’m going to spoil the supposed twist, because… who cares. Freya discovers their snooping around. But instead of the procedural capital punishment, she decides to conduct unsanctioned psychological experiments on human subjects. She creates an ice wall between Eric and Sara that appears to be transparent. However, it’s actually an advanced prototype of the Snapchat moving filters that let you wear virtual masks, or bunny ears and stuff like that. On Eric’s side, he witnesses his love get stabbed from the back and die. From Sara’s side, Eric simply flees. During that scene, you only see Eric’s side but you can easily predict Sara’s return.

While Freya believes that she was betrayed by her blindness to love, she lacks the self-awareness to see the true irony of her Snapchat illusion. Eric and Sara are evidence of unhindered love (or love that’s yet to be hindered), thus posing a challenge to her decree. If she has to artificially manufacture the betraying effects of love to demonstrate its evil, surely her argument loses all credibility. And that’s the problem with fascists. If their ideology makes no sense, they have to resort to lies, coercion, fear mongering, and force. But Freya is no ordinary dictator; she’s also a mentally ill mother who has totally lost her mind. She’s motivated by her desperate need to fill the void of her deprivation. She thinks all people are children that need to be saved from the manipulating effects of love disguised as trust. She’s not fit to rule and the only thing that can stop her is realizing the truth. It’s the truth that she is indeed blinded by love, but for her sister.

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Emily Blunt (L) as Freya and Charlize Theron (R) as Ravenna in The Huntsman: Winter’s War

In Winter’s War, a heartbroken queen demands that her people love no one, not even her. Whether or not she loved her subjects is unclear. But she knew the punishment if she did break her own law. However, I simply can’t imagine a mother who doesn’t love her supposed children. In the end, it wasn’t love that killed the queen, but in fact her resistance to it. This lies contrary to King Kong’s profession that beauty (and by extension love) killed the beast. The story is not about how vanity can corrupt you irrecoverably. It is about a grieving mother who became insane and never received the proper psychiatric care to heal. She became so insane that she invented a reality where she is the mother of all her subjects, and must free all children who aren’t under her care. Anything that challenges her fantasy is immediately terminated. But some part of her feels that something is not quite right. So she toys with the rules she created and allows two lovers to live. What she in fact does is set herself on the path for self-healing. On her truth expedition, she encounters the dormant epiphany she’s been searching for. It’s too much to handle, and although she fights for her life, she dies.

While I enjoyed analyzing the movie from a different perspective, the theatrical experience was less than stellar. The Huntsman: Winter’s War, therefore, receives a grade of D (4.0/10).

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