‘Huntsman’ without Kristen Stewart is a loss for female-driven blockbusters

Snow White and the Huntsman is not a great movie. Critically speaking, it probably doesn’t “deserve” a sequel. But since when has that ever mattered? Plenty of mediocre movies go on to spawn entire franchises, and you could do a lot worse than Kristen Stewart flinging off the shackles of Twilight to become a sword-wielding fairytale queen.

Unfortunately for anyone who did enjoy Snow White and the Huntsman, the sequel looks like it’s going to be pretty different. For one thing, we won’t see any more of Kristen Stewart: Warrior Princess.

This week, entertainment news sites began reporting that the Snow White and the Huntsman sequel may be more like a Kristen Stewart-free spinoff, focusing on the Huntsman instead. Played by Chris Hemsworth, the Huntsman’s main role was to remind everyone about how much they enjoyed watching Thor. He hefted medieval weaponry, wore a lot of leather, and was manipulated by an evil goth monarch (in this case Charlize Theron’s Ravenna rather than Tom Hiddleston’s Loki). He wasn’t an unlikeable character, but he wasn’t a particularly memorable one, either.

Even though Snow White and the Huntsman had “Huntsman” in the title, he wasn’t the main draw. Chris Hemsworth has plenty of appeal, but Snow White sold tickets because it was aimed solidly at the same young adult audience who went to see Twilight and The Hunger Games. Thanks to the presence of Kristen Stewart as a sword-wielding but emotionally complex heroine, Snow White and the Huntsman was effectively critic-proof.

Why the sudden U-turn? Well, Kristen Stewart was photographed kissing Snow White director Rupert Sanders while she was still in a relationship with Robert Pattinson, but from a business perspective this scandal doesn’t necessarily mean anything. There’s no indication that this two-year-old affair would damage the success of another movie, and Sanders isn’t attached to the sequel anyway.

So, in the midst of news reports and trend pieces telling us that we’re in a golden age of teen girl cinema, the decision to drop Kristen Stewart from the Snow White sequel seems baffling.

The first movie had three selling points: the familiar Snow White storyline, the star power of Kristen Stewart, and the desire to piggyback on the success of recent female-led YA fantasy movies. By dropping Stewart and bringing Hemsworth into the foreground, this spinoff idea removes all three of these selling points. The Huntsman isn’t an iconic character, a Hemsworth-centric movie would lose most of the Twilight audience who rushed to see the first film on opening weekend, and for obvious reasons the teen girl empowerment storyline is now dead in the water.

By definition, new trends are a challenge to the status quo. If action/fantasy movies starring young women were a normal and predictable Hollywood product, then we wouldn’t still be talking about things like Divergent and Mortal Instruments as “the new Hunger Games.” Actually, female-led summer blockbusters are still something of a rarity, which is why the loss of Snow White is such a blow.

This month, Maleficent made half a billion dollars and was one of the most talked-about movies in the world. With Snow White and the Huntsman being a kind of proto-Maleficent, you’d think that any potential sequels would want to capitalize on the growing popularity of the genre.

Instead, its creators appear to be abandoning this idea in favor of making an unnecessary Chris Hemsworth vehicle that plays off his most famous role. Except a Huntsman movie would remove most of Thor’s interesting elements (Norse mythology, superheroes, and Marvel’s action-comedy tone), and replace them with the dreariest and most overused concept in Hollywood: a miserable male hero who drinks too much and fights a lot because his wife is dead.

Not only do we not need any more movies like that, but a Huntsman spinoff fails to cater to the audience who enjoyed Snow White and the Huntsman in the first place. It also fails to understand the audience for Thor, a movie with broad appeal thanks to Tom Hiddleston, a strong supporting cast of well-written female characters, and strong ties to Marvel’s Avengers franchise.

In other words, giving Chris Hemsworth an axe and making him fight some CGI monsters is not a surefire recipe for replicating Thor’s success.

The lesson here is that despite all evidence to the contrary, a young female star cannot (or will not) be trusted to support a movie whose prequel made almost $400 million at the box office. If that Huntsman spinoff does get made, then the subtext will be that generic white guy movies are still Hollywood’s top priority, even if it means uprooting a female character who has already proven to be a box office success. 

Photo via siwydenim/Tumblr

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw

Gavia Baker-Whitelaw is a staff writer at the Daily Dot, covering geek culture and fandom. Specializing in sci-fi movies and superheroes, she also appears as a film and TV critic on BBC radio. Elsewhere, she co-hosts the pop culture podcast Overinvested. Follow her on Twitter: @Hello_Tailor