Review by C.J. Bunce
The Huntsman: Winter’s War is now available on Digital HD and coming to 4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, DVD and On Demand this week from Universal Pictures Home Entertainment. The Huntsman: Winter’s War on Blu-ray and DVD includes an all-new extended edition of the action-adventure, plus exclusive bonus features that show the depth and skill required to produce an epic fantasy film on par with Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings series. Not since Godfather 2 has any filmmaker been able to so successfully stitch a prequel and a sequel into one film, as the story of Winter’s War takes place both before and after 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman. Winter’s War also remains our lead contender for best fantasy of 2016.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War stars Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road, Aeon Flux, Prometheus, Kubo and the Two Strings) as the evil Queen Ravenna, who betrays her sister Freya (Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow, Looper, The Adjustment Bureau), causing Freya’s evil, icy powers to emerge. Retreating to a snowbound fortress, Freya raises an army of children into Huntsmen, banishing love in her realm. Freya’s most elite Huntsmen, Eric (Chris Hemsworth, Thor, Star Trek 2009) and Sara (Jessica Chastain, Crimson Peak) are caught breaking the one law and forced to face off against the other Huntsmen. Seven years after the events in Snow White and the Huntsmen, we meet the long-exiled Eric, now tasked to retrieve the legendary “mirror mirror” that set off the battle of that film. He is joined by four dwarf warriors and propelled into a battle with Freya, who manages to acquire the mirror and unleash the dark power within it. Be sure to check out our review of the theatrical release of the film from this past April here at borg.com.
Less than ten new minutes are added for the extended edition that accompanies the theatrical edition on this week’s release. The added scenes alone won’t justify the purchase of the Blu-ray, but you’ll want to watch this new release as the spectacular features and beautiful transfer quality make The Huntsman: Winter’s War a feast for the eyes and the best home release so far this year.
So what are the features you get?
The version we reviewed included the Blu-ray, DVD, and Ultraviolet access code for use on VUDU and other platforms (plus an opportunity for a free Universal digital movie). It also includes director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan’s insightful commentary track, a theatrical version and an extended edition. The deleted scenes, unlike many that accompany a home release, are completely finished versions, adding some insight into backstory of characters, but as explained by the director in his own commentaries that accompany each, the final version is likely better for it. The expected gag reel is here as well but with a twist: How often does a gag reel tell you more about a film than provide peeks at a few misfires? Yes, you’ll see the perils of filming near airports and some actor stumbles. But you’ll also learn how difficult it is to coordinate so many scenes involving elaborate set design and special effects, particularly under the time and budget constraints that accompany any elaborate motion picture. The gag reel alone is packed with content.
The behind-the-scenes features are a cut above the typical home release.
Two Queens and Two Warriors
In this segment, first-time director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan discusses casting and characterization, and contrasts the story elements of this film with the original story of Snow White and The Huntsman. Very thoughtful, detailed interviews feature Theron, Blunt, Hemsworth, and Chastain, providing character backstory and motivations and their own views of the production process.
Dressed to Kill
Here we meet Oscar-winning costume designer Colleen Atwood, a fan favorite who has costumed many genre productions including the CW’s Arrow and The Flash among others. We learn the work that went into the key wardrobe pieces for Theron, Blunt, Chastain and Hemsworth, like taking an entire month for a small band of costumers to hand paint in gold each feather for Theron’s beautiful feathered gold cloak. We also get nice close-ups of the key costumes of Ravenna and Freya.
Meet the Dwarfs
This look behind the scenes focuses on some fun interviews with real-life friends Nick Frost and Rob Brydon as Nion and Gryff, plus the dwarf women Sheridan Smith as Miss Bronwyn and Alexandra Roach as Doreena. We find out how they cleverly and inexpensively filmed the dwarves with humans successfully using lowered sets vs. the complicated methods of The Lord of the Rings, proving low-tech when done right can net better results than high-tech.
Magic All Around
Here the director explains the special effects used to show the fantastical otherworldly magic shown in the film. Most impressive is how much set work was real vs CGI. The feature looks at the plastic and CGI ice, full-sized sculptures, rubber goblins, the magic mirror made from fiberglass, shooting the liquid-like gold Ravenna, and the evil black oil tentacles. And Simon Jay discusses motion capture use for the goblin king.
Love Conquers All
The final segment is a celebration of the director, emphasizing his positive set culture and the friendly working relationships of the cast.
A must for fans of the theatrical release and fans of fantasy in general, and one of borg.com‘s picks for best fantasy film of the year, The Huntsman: Winter’s War is available for pre-order now here from Amazon.com at a discounted price. It’s release date is Tuesday, August 23, 2016.