Friday, May 6, 2016

The Huntsman: Winter's War Review

Snow White and the Huntsman was released back in 2012 and was surprisingly decent for what it was, despite having Kristen Stewart as one of the leads. Charlize Theron as Ravenna, the evil queen, stole the show and made it exciting and interesting; I wanted to see more of this amazing actress in this interesting role. Well, a movie pegged as a prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman was released and I was psyched to see more of Charlize Theron as Ravenna. Unfortunately, The Huntsman: Winter's War (2016) is a major flop and seems to go out of its way to avoid showing us what made the previous movie decent.
Betrayed by her evil sister Ravenna (Charlize Theron), heartbroken Freya (Emily Blunt) retreats to a northern kingdom to raise an army of huntsmen as her protectors. Gifted with the ability to freeze her enemies in ice, Freya teaches her young soldiers to never fall in love. When Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and fellow warrior Sara (Jessica Chastain) defy this rule, the angry queen orders them to be killed. Eric escapes, believing Sara to be dead. Many years later after Snow White had defeated Ravenna, The Magic Mirror Ravenna used as the source of her powers is stolen before it can be destroyed. Fearing the return of the Evil Queen, Eric is ordered to seek out the Mirror and destroy it. Accompanied by dwarves Nion (Nick Frost) and Gryff (Rob Brydon), Eric sets out to find and destroy The Mirror. But Freya also seeks The Magic Mirror for its power, and she sends one of her most lethal Huntsman to retrieve it first and kill Eric along the way if necessary.
The Huntsman: Winter's War was marketed and promoted as a prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman. That's just fine, of course. However, the story is more of a prequel/sequel mash up. The first fourth of the movie is a prequel and we are introduced to Freya, Sara, and Eric, and we see Ravenna's relationship with her sister. Then we get "Seven Years Later" on the screen and from that point on, everything is supposed to have happened after Snow White and the Huntsman, effectively making it a sequel. A sequel is also fine. But doing both in one movie is both confusing from a narrative perspective and a blatant cash grab from a film making perspective. Yeah, I wanted to see Ravenna's fantastic villain in action again, but this was a convoluted way to make it happen. Yes, it's just fine to have a few years pass in a story to shorten the span of time between important related events. But it's sloppy story telling if within that elapsed time, which we gloss over, a whole other movie's worth of events occur, the likes of which have a significant impact on rest of the story. I can appreciate a movie expecting it's audience to have seen the previous movie, but there's so much that The Huntsman assumes the audience knows and doesn't bother to explain. It makes the story confusing, convoluted, and poorly presented. The dreadful quality coupled with rehashed good quality special effects and big name actors makes this seem like a cash grab; there's no heart in it. It feels like it was thrown together at the last minute just to sell tickets.
The trailers for The Huntsman were pretty exciting. We got to see some shots of Freya and Ravenna throw down against each other with flashy special effects and action. That's the kind of larger-than-life stunts I appreciated about the first movie and wanted to see more of them in this second movie. Unfortunately, nearly every scene in which that sort of action occurred was shown in the trailer. I wanted to see lots of Ravenna doing her crazy thing; using beauty as a weapon, harnessing the power of The Magic Mirror, and manipulating blood in disturbing ways. Sure, we see some of that and what we see is pretty cool, but what we see is only toward the end during the climactic fight. We see a whole lot more of Freya, but we don't really see her use her powers much either. Granted, what made Ravenna so menacing in the first movie was how powerful and manipulative she was before she even resorted to using magic. Here, she's all super powers with none of the sophisticated subtlety of the previous film. The big fight at the end is probably the best part of the movie; but, it spends too much time with uninteresting characters mucking about in the woods doing very little pertaining to their intended quest.
The Huntsman does have a pretty good cast. Chris Hemsworth has shown us some good acting in the past. Charlize Theron is reprising a role I adored, and she was incredible in Mad Max: Fury Road. Emily Blunt is great actress as well. Nick Frost plays an excellent comic relief as usual. Really, the whole cast is good, they just had a horrible script to work with. The few characters returning from the previous film aren't as interesting or well developed as they were before. I actually feel sorry for the cast involved. It seems like they were present only to fulfill contractual obligations, not because they thought this would be a good movie. The best part of The Huntsman is that while Snow White is mentioned nominally a few times, Kristen Stewart does not appear in the movie.
The Huntsman: Winter's War boasts some nice special effects and a stellar cast, but neither one is enough to make up for the sloppy storytelling, lousy script, and convoluted nature of this entirely unnecessary sequel. This movie is disappointing no matter how you look at it. The returning characters aren't as interesting or fleshed out as they previously were, new characters were weak and bland, and important points of the story are left out under the assumption you've seen the previous movie. It seems like the producers thought that Elsa in Disney's Frozen was popular and tried to shoehorn a rip off of that character into a half-baked sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman. This movie lacks the heart and epic quality of its predecessor, and even that movie wasn't all that good to start with. I cannot recommend seeing The Huntsman: Winter's War even if you did like Snow White and the Huntsman. It's a blatant cash grab which I can't imagine anyone involved in it enjoyed making.

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