In 2012, a dark retelling of the popular Snow-White source material was released that starred Kirsten Stewart as the title character and Chris Hemsworth as The Huntsman. Snow White and The Huntsman turned out to be a box office success, so naturally, executives decided to milk this cash cow dry by making a prequel with The Huntsman as the main protagonist. It follows Freya and the rise of an army of huntsmen as her protectors. The Huntsman: Winter’s War saw a terrible critical reception upon release, garnering an abysmal 20% score on rotten tomatoes. More importantly, the film had a lukewarm opening, making less than $20 million in its first weekend and The Huntsman: Winter’s War ended its run by making $165 million. Given the fact that the production budget was $115 million, The Huntsman: Winter’s War needed at least $300 million to break even, thus the film ultimately failed to make money for Universal Studios. So, what happened? Given the success of Snow White & The Huntsman, the prequel should’ve done better at the box office. Let’s dive deeper into the reasoning behind the failure of The Huntsman: Winter’s War.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War Came Across as a Poor Man’s Frozen
Frozen was the hottest thing in the movie world when it came out in late November 2013. The animated feature would make over a billion dollars and had people singing “Let it Go” throughout the country. Originally, Snow White and The Huntsman was due for a sequel; however, that ultimately changed to a spin-off for The Huntsman. There’s no exact reasoning on why a sequel was never made, though given the fact that Kirsten Stewart and Rupert Sanders were steeped in controversy at the time, that was likely a strong reason. There’s no word on whether Frozen was an inspiration for The Huntsman: Winter’s War, but critics made sure to point out the obvious similarities between the two films. Going by the trailer, the Ice Queen is highlighted and it’s hard not to deny the comparison between Frozen and The Huntsman. To be clear, I’m not stating that the film tried to ride off of Frozen’s success; however, there were plenty of audience members dismayed over The Huntsman: Winter’s War being too identical to the popular animated film. The main issue is that Huntsman seemingly wanted to ride the superhero train and lost a bit of its originality along the way. Yes, Snow White and The Huntsman is lifted from a popular Disney character; however, the grim and dark take felt like a fresh approach to the well-known property. There wasn’t a big fuss about The Huntsman coming across as Frozen lite, but there’s no denying that it played a role in audiences opting against seeing the feature. Of course, the bad reviews and critics confirming that the film was highly identical to Frozen didn’t help either.
Snow White and The Huntsman Likely Turned Off Fans from The Prequel
Snow White and The Huntsman was a film that ranged from good to boring in many of the audiences’ eyes. In truth, the 2012 was a fun take on the well-known property, though at times it can be boring. Part of that is due to Charlize Theron not being given much to do other than to be evil for a good portion of the film. The actress is actually great in her role as The Evil Queen, but her act grows tiresome as the film moves along. At the end of the day, curiosity likely made Snow White and The Huntsman a success as it managed to retell a classic story in an original way; however, no one ever felt that the film needed a sequel. There was no reason to showcase the backstory of The Huntsman. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is the very definition of an unnecessary sequel. The film is as gorgeous as the first and there are fun fight sequences throughout, but Winter’s War just doesn’t have an identity of its own. The movie feels confused about what it wants to be. Sometimes it’s a love story. Other times it’s a superhero/action vehicle. And other times its Frozen minus the musical’s numbers. Most of the audience likely didn’t care about diving back into the world of Snow White and The Huntsmen especially since the main attraction was gone. While people praised Chris Hemsworth for his role as The Huntsman, Snow White was ultimately the star and with Stewart gone, so were most of the fans. I understand Universal Studios decision to veer away from the controversy regarding Kirsten Stewart and Rubert Sanders. However, executives overestimated the brand and Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman character greatly.