Who out there was a fan of Snow White and the Huntsman? I have to admit, I initially was going into the theatrical screening. It looked dark and broody and I was looking forward to seeing Charlize Theron as the evil queen of the famous fairy tale “Snow White.” However, I just don’t know. In the end, I just could not embrace Kristen Stewart in the role of Snow White, but I digress. There were more issues in that film than just Kristen. So when word broke that there would be a second film, which serves as both a prequel and a sequel to the aforementioned title, and best of all not involve Stewart, I thought win-win. However, my rejoice was short-lived when the reviews for The Huntsman: Winter’s War starting pouring in like this one from our Aaron Neuwirth here. Can you say ouch?
As you already know The Huntsman: Winter’s War is based on characters form the fairy tale Snow White. They are also based on The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen. It sees direction by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, making this his directorial debut,from a script written by Craig Mazin and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Reprising their roles from the first film, the cast includes Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Nick Frost and Sam Claflin. Furthermore, new actors to this second chapter include Emily Blunt, Rob Brydon and Jessica Chastain. The film has star power. I’ll give it that. However, what good is that when you have this kind of blah story to work with?
The Huntsman: Winter’s War stars Charlize Theron as the evil Queen Ravenna. You remember her from the first film, right? She betrays her good sister Freya (Blunt) with an unforgivable act. Now bear with me because this is where our story is instantly going to get real silly. She freezes Freya’s heart from loving and unleashes within her an icy power she never knew she possessed. Freya retreats to a kingdom far to the north where she raises an army of Huntsmen as her protectors with only rule. Her Huntsmen are all forbidden from ever falling in love. That’s kind of the prequel part of it.
Moving on, to the sequel side of the house, we have that pesky mirror still causing problems in our fairy tale world. Wouldn’t you know it, a war for domination escalates between the two queens. Say it ain’t so! The hero standing between good and evil is Freya’s most elite Huntsman, Eric (Hemsworth). Alongside fellow warrior Sara (Chastain), coincidentally the only woman who has ever captured his heart, Eric must help Freya vanquish her sister or Ravenna’s wickedness will rule for eternity. Anyway, it’s kind of something like that. What says you? Ready to know what I think about all the blandness here?
It’s no secret. I feel this film is rather mediocre. While I don’t outright hate it I also don’t like it enough to warrant anything more than a middle of the road, meh score. There’s just nothing special to see here, but plenty to latch onto with hopes of something more. That’s just it though, those hopes never materialize. Instead we’re just left with a rather bland fairy tale, nothing too exciting or Earth shattering to see. There are things I applaud about it like the sexuality and brutality of some of the fight scenes, but there’s not enough to keep me engaged. I hate to say it, but since her name is mentioned a lot throughout, I actually do miss Kristen Stewart as Snow White in here. Gulp!
There’s a really short, but good article that I agree 100% with over at MovieFone (link here) so I do want to give credit where its justly deserved. The post basically sums up my feelings in regards to this film in five short points. Let’s discuss them real briefly below before we move onto the real reason you’re all here…the 4K Blu-ray presentation and its associated disc vitals!
- We have a sequel to a Snow White movie, but no Snow White! She’s mentioned an awful lot throughout here, but where is she? Well, she’s off ruling the throne after she defeated the evil queen in the 2012 film. However, we never really see here. Although I must at least encourage you to stick around after the credits of this one and you might find a surprise or two. That’s all I’m saying.
- Going hand-in-hand with point one up above, there’s no Kristen Stewart in this film. I believe she was slated to be, but because of point number four down below she’s nowhere to be found. Without Kristen Stewart there’s obviously no Snow White. Why couldn’t they have just recast the role? I have no idea!
- I have zero problems with Charlize Theron, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt and even Chris Hemsworth. I like them a lot in some of their respective roles in other films. Hemsworth cracked me up in 2016’s Ghostbusters while Emily Blunt put me under her spell in Sicario and Edge of Tomorrow. However, their star power combined is not enough to save this sinking production most likely because of point number four below here. Here’s an interesting fact that I want you to try on for size because it completely blows my mind. You know how we all love Hemsworth in a lot of his movie roles? Well, he’s a complete loser at the box office when he’s not wielding Thor’s hammer. No non-franchise movie he’s starred in has ever opened beyond $15 million. That’s just astonishing, but oh well…moving on.
- The movie suffered from bad timing. First, there was the scandal that affected the production of the 2012 film when Stewart was caught having an affair with her married director, Rupert Sanders. Because of that, it’s rumored to be the reason why it took four years to get this sequel/prequel off the ground. Believe it or not! You need to strike when the iron is hot, not four years later when pretty much everyone forgot about the feature or at this point even cares. The Huntsman: Winter’s War also had the unpleasant pairing of opening against The Jungle Book this year, which dominated the box office in April.
- Last but not least, the storytelling sucked. It’s said that during the production of this film not only did they lose the first pair of screenwriters, but the directors too. So as you can see duties had to clearly change hands here. If you try to look at things with a positive spin and seriously think about it, things could have been so much worse off here. Let’s be thankfully for what we have. At least we have some cool fight scenes and sensuality to boot.
The below video score and relative comments are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of The Huntsman: Winter’s War.
- Encoding: HEVC / H.265
- Resolution: 4K (2160p)
- Layers: BD-66
- Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
- Clarity/Detail: While there’s a wee bit of source noise in the blue skies here or there it’s nothing to call the clarity cops over. Intricate details in the costumes and even the engravings in the mirror astound while facial hair, stubble and even visible wig lines never cease to amaze. In other words, the things we have to work with throughout here are pretty pristine and chiseled. One probably has to ask themselves why wouldn’t it be? After all The Huntsman: Winter’s Was is a new movie and it’s 4K! How isn’t this one being released in 3D Blu-ray though? Pretty much every scene in here had some kind of ash or snowflake falling repeatedly thus perfectly lending itself to the gimmick. I digress.
- Depth: Despite the darkness of it all throughout the onscreen characters really pop giving you that much loved three-dimensional quality to it all. The vast sets and the many forest moments give the cinematography here a nice deep look to it all.
- Black Levels: The black levels of this presentation are my favorite thing about this 4K Blu-ray presentation. A lot of this film for one reason or another is cast in dark shadows. Thankfully, the black levels are exceptional here, deep and inky throughout. I love the pitch black moments too where the only contrast in the image is a flickering flame lighting the way for all to see. The fire and flames just pops against the cold darkness.
- Color Reproduction: Here’s where things suffer. There’s a lot of bleakness and shadowy, dark moments littered through The Huntsman: Winter’s War. However, thanks to the employment of the HDR and WCG (Wide Color Gamut) in this 4K presentation the cold, sterile environments are rendered beautifully with shades of blue and layers of gray thanks to the many shadowy moments I just mentioned. There’s a contrast and separation to it all leaving the image not completely lost in the darkness. I think that’s where this presentation benefits the most from HDR here.
- Flesh Tones: The temperatures of the skin tones did get kind of warm a few times. However, for the most part the flesh tones were natural and in check throughout. I’ll save the joke I want to make here because it’s probably not politically correct.
- Noise/Artifacts: There’s absolutely nothing in the way here of menacing noise or artifacts that would prevent you from enjoying this one other than the mediocre story itself.
Like I mentioned up above in the video section, the below audio score and judging comments are based solely upon my viewing of the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray presentation of The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Truth be told though, Universal did not skimp in the audio department here. Both the 4K UHD disc and the regular 1080p Blu-ray come armed with a DTS:X Immersive Audio surround track.
- Audio Format(s): English DTS:X Immersive Audio, English DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1, Spanish DTS Digital Surround 5.1, French (Canadian) DTS Digital Surround 5.1
- Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French
- Dynamics: The Huntsman: Winter’s War seems to exhibit the same audio anomaly I described in my 4K Oblivion review over here. I have to turn the overall volume up a little more than usual. I did not have that problem with Universal’s Lucy over here. Things that make you go hmm, right? Ha! With that being said I really did enjoy the dynamics of this audio presentation from the quietest whispers and lows to the loudest shouts and aggressive action (the long outreach of the evil queen). What I love the most here are the environmental factors The Huntsman: Winter’s War places us in. Whether we’re in the queen’s chamber or the vast forest, sounds, nuances and other events that transpire do so with the utmost of accuracy and authenticity.
- Low Frequency Extension: The LFE channel is menacing in times of action with punishing punches and thuds, not to mention adding overall weight to this surround track. Perhaps the greatest moments of LFE involvement for me revolve around the rise and fall of the ice walls. Pretty much anything that involves the making and breaking of the ice effects employed within here command my full undivided attention. You’ll catch my meaning upon your first viewing.
- Surround Sound Presentation: The Huntsman‘s surround track immerses you and keeps you feel engaged throughout. It’s not the most aggressive of presentations, but it’s a fairy tale after all and there’s at least something to work with here. Some examples that I fondly remember from this presentation include horses, the mirror’s voice in the woods, birds, rain, thunder, arrows and once again those hurling ice walls. When Freya the frost goddess hurls ice at us you not only feel it in the LFE channel, but also it cuts right through and past you in the rears. I’m very pleased with the dimensional qualities and spatial atmosphere of everything going on here.
- Dialogue Reproduction: For the most part, the dialogue was clear and intelligible. There’s intentional heavy accents throughout so there will probably be moments for you when you simply just don’t immediately get what is said.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War on 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray and DVD includes an all-new extended edition of the epic action-adventure, plus exclusive bonus features that reveal the movie’s behind-the-scenes secrets. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is available on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray in a combo pack which includes the film on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and Digital HD with UltraViolet. The 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray combo pack includes all the below bonus features on the Blu-ray disc. I think you already what to expect from the HDR presentation on the 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray disc as opposed to its 1080p Blu-ray counterpart. Otherwise I don’t think you would be here reading this 4K review. The important thing to note here is the Theatrical (1:53:57) and Extended Cut (2:00:10) of the film is available on both the UHD and regular Blu-ray disc as well as the feature commentary. So my job is to simply do the following in this category. Let me painstakingly break down below for you all the HD bonus features and goodies you’ll find included on the 1080p Blu-ray disc. Here we go!
- Winter’s Vista: The Making of The Huntsman: Winter’s War (HD) – The first extra I want to dive into here is broken out into the following 5 segments below:
- Two Queens and Two Warriors (HD, 7:22) – They say that the true heart of The Huntsman: Winter’s War is found in its three powerful women, Ravenna, Freya, and Eric’s lost wife, Sara. Here you can learn how the strength and complexity of the film’s female roles drew potent new star power in Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain, as well as convincing Charlize Theron to reprise her role as Ravenna. We also get a closer look at the challenges our first-time director faced here too. Interesting, huh?
- Meet the Dwarfs (HD, 8:10) – It’s no secret that when we are talking “fun” here we must be discussing the dwarf characters. Ha ha. Nick Frost’s Nion and Rob Brydon’s Gryff brought a sense of levity and fun to the adventure. Here we explore the importance of all four dwarf characters in the film and on set, where the actors who portrayed them earn a reputation for keeping the fun rolling, even when the cameras stopped. It’s almost like another gag reel, huh?
- Magic All Around (HD, 8:44) – Rooted in history, but inhabited by magic, the world of The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a visual spectacle thanks to all the CGI. So needless to say, in this segment you can follow along and see how the magic made it to the screen. From Freya’s icy freeze to the gold-laden goblins of the forest, here you can explore the visual effects at work with an exclusive peek behind the curtain. Welcome to Oz!
- Dressed To Kill (HD, 6:03) – Academy Award-winning costumer Colleen Atwood returns to help reignite the splendor she brought to 2012’s Snow White and The Huntsman. Just like the CGI and special effects employed throughout the movie her costumes are quite the visual feast. They help bring the characters to life. Take a look at them all in this segment here.
- Love Conquers All (HD, 5:58) – From the infectious enthusiasm of director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan to the sisterly bond shared by Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron, the set of The Huntsman: Winter’s War was filled with laughter and life. I don’t know why none of that made it into the movie, but that’s a topic for the film section, not here. Actors and artists came together to help create a fairy tale about the pure power of love and are shown having a blast along the way in this featurette. See how they bond and see what the cast thinks of our first-time director here. Dive in!
- Deleted Scenes (HD) – Here we have a total of four deleted scenes available here with optional commentary by Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. The deleted 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) – You all know what a gag reel compromises, laughs, mess-ups and outtakes from the shoot. However, if you ask me, this one is rather quite lengthy.
- Audio Commentary – Here we have feature audio commentary with director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. Like I said up above, you can find this commentary track on both the UHD disc and the Blu-ray. If you’re a fan of the film, I highly encourage you listen to this one as Cedric does cover some interesting ground here discussing everything from the actors to all the special effects and whatnot. As a wannabe filmmaker I enjoyed his candid talks on the process.
If nothing else, Universal’s 4K Blu-ray menu for this title does look fantastic, eh?
So what do you say about The Huntsman: Winter’s War? In all honesty, here we have a sequel/prequel that probably should have never been made. It’s a mediocre love survives kind of tale, but it’s also still part of the Snow White universe. Don’t you want that “complete” experience? Come on! You know you do! The cast is heavily female-centric and there’s a sense of humor to it all. It has that much going for it plus action and sensuality to boot. However, it is heavily crammed with CGI visual effects. You see the conundrum that we have going on here? Now you understand why my score is so wishy-washy? I did not overly hate the film and I didn’t exuberantly love it. It’s just a middle-of-the-road fairy tale and it is what it is. With that being said, it is Universal’s first-ever “new” release on the brand new 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray format. I think you should pick it up courtesy of our pre-order link. Thanks for your support and reading. Enjoy!
Bring Home The Story That Came Before
The Huntsman: Winter’s War
on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray