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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016) – Review

The original story of Snow White is a very simple tale; vane and evil queen wants potential rival of her beauty murdered, a huntsman fakes her death and the young girl is helped later by a bunch of dwarves. In 2012 we got Snow White and the Huntsman, a film which tried to “Lord of the Rings” up the story, and though it wasn’t all that good it was successful enough to spawn a sequel, a sequel that went into development hell when the affair between the lead actress and her married director got out. So four years later, and after many directors and actors came and went, we got The Huntsman: Winter's War, a movie that no one really asked for and mostly likely everyone will soon forget.


Originally intended to be a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman this film ended up being both a prequel and a sequel due to the departure of Kristen Stewart, for whatever reason the studio will admit to. The movie begins with a sort of origin story as we see Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) murdering her husband and taking over his kingdom. The endless narration, provided by an uncredited Liam Neeson, tells of how Ravenna moved from kingdom to kingdom like some supernatural black widow, marrying and killing king after king and thus expanding her reign. I’m not sure how this con would work; after the first couple kings die mysteriously just who and the hell would marry this Queen of Death?


Sure she’s hot and all but the fatality rate is 100%.

But Ravenna isn’t the only evil queen in this movie; we also have her sister Freya (Emily Blunt) who at first is a shown as a sweet girl with none of the magical powers of her older sister, but when Freya gets knocked up by the man she loves, then betrayed when said man murders her baby, she goes all Ice Queen and kills him.


Insert obligatory Frozen joke here.

Freya moves north to start her own kingdom (Are kingdom’s something you find on Craig’s list?) and with an army she acquires from who the hell knows, she forms a land of ice and snow. She sends out her army to steal children which she will then brainwash with her doctrine of “Love is a Sin” and turn them into Huntsman. If none of this makes a lot of sense you are not alone. As villains go Freya is a terribly weak character, and is never much of a threat despite her ice powers. When two of her stolen children grow up to be badass warriors Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain), she is at first proud of them, and then vastly disappointed when they fall in love with each other.


They even make out in Jon Snow and Ygritte’s hot spring.

Cold hearted Freya confronts them and creates a massive ice wall to separate them before forcing Eric to watch as Sara is killed by her fellow huntsmen. Eric is then struck from behind and his body is dumped in an icy river. Standard villain mistake; not verifying that the person is actually dead. The movie then jumps ahead seven years to a little while after the events that took place in Snow White and the Huntsman. From King William of Tabor (Sam Claffin) Eric learns that at the direction Snow White the Magic Mirror was being moved to a safe place known as “Sanctuary” but while on route it had been stolen. The Queen wants her ever faithful huntsman to get it back. As Kristen Stewart never makes an appearance in this film this entire quest seems rather contrived, and the quest to get back the mirror leads to the introduction of dwarven comic relief (Nick Frost) and friends, as well as deleted scenes from Lord of the Rings.


Are they following the mirror to Mordor?

This movie doesn’t have an ounce of originality in it's 114 minute running time, every scene looks borrowed from another movie; the meet a mysterious stranger in a tavern fight, they cross the Bog of Eternal Stench from Labyrinth on bridge out of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, and every scene with Freya reminds us how much better of a character Elsa from Frozen was. The entire cast seems to be working as if studio snipers are just perched off camera to ensure that none of the actors escape. Chris Hemsworth occasionally tries to breathe some life into the movie with his trademark grin, but all it does is make one wish you were watching him in a Thor movie instead. Jessica Chastain only appears in this film to fulfill some contractual obligation due to her getting the role in Crimson Peaks, and it’s clear she really didn’t want to be here.


She really should have read the fine print on that contract.

Questions of Note:
  • Ravenna and Freya are constantly conquering kingdoms, just exactly how many bloody kingdoms does this land have?
  • Freya outlaws love, so I guess kidnapping children is the only way to expand your kingdom if you've basically made sex illegal.
  • Why are the members of Freya’s army called Huntsman? They conquer kingdoms not animals.
  • Why does Eric and Sara have thick Scottish accents?
  • There is a running joke about how male dwarves consider female dwarves ugly, even though when we meet a couple of female dwarves they are nothing of the kind. Comedy?
  • Goblins swing through the trees like apes from a Tarzan cartoon.
  • To save the party from the goblins Eric cuts the rope bridge over the bog river, but he does this with himself on the same side as the goblins. So he’s not what you’d call a tactical genius.
  • Also it’s a small river encompassed by large trees, so the tree swinging goblins shouldn’t really need a bridge to cross it.
  • The Magic Mirror gains new abilities whenever the script demands it.
  • Sisters have a falling out and one has ice powers. Disney’s lawyer were told to, “Let it go.

Aside from some nice visuals there is nothing to offer viewers; the script is a mess, the cast seems completely uninterested in whats going on, and first time director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (he was a visual effects artist before this) is unable to create any sense of urgency or wonder in what is supposed to be an exciting fantasy film. Kristen Stewart certainly dodged a bullet in not appearing in this generic and tone deaf mess.

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