Saturday, April 9, 2016

Movie Review: The Huntsman: Winter's War

Cedric Nicolas-Troyan kicks Snow White out of her own franchise to bring us his feature debut, The Huntsman: Winter's War.

I never saw Snow White and the Huntsman.  That being said, I didn't feel like I needed to for this movie.  This starts out with your typical fairytale narrator telling us about two evil sisters trying to take over kingdoms.  The older sister, Ravenna (Charlize Theron, Mad Max: Fury Road), had powers and a magic mirror (you know the one).  The younger sister, Elsa Freya (Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow), did not until she had her heart broken and literally turned into an ice queen.  She went on to take over the kingdoms of the North.  She did this by kidnapping a bunch of children and creating an army of huntsmen.  Two of her best, Eric (Chris Hemsworth, Avengers: Age of Ultron) and Merida Sara (Jessica Chastain, The Martian), grew up and fell in love.  This is a big no-no in Freya's army, so she puts an end to that.  Eric is supposedly dead and thrown in a river.  Then the narrator comes in to tell us this is when Snow White and the Huntsman takes place, and gives a 15-second recap.  Cut to 7 years later and the mirror comes in to play again.  Eric wants to make sure it doesn't get into evil hands.  Freya wants it in her evil hands.  Who will come out on top?

I want to say this movie is just a cash grab prequel/sequel, but did the first one really do that well?  That's just what it felt like watching it.  Apparently the Huntsman was more popular than Snow White, because now we've got his origin story.  The story just seems a little clunky.  From what I gathered, Freya was never even mentioned in the first film and now she's the big baddie.  Then, the first film was barely even acknowledged in this one.  It seemed kind of like an "oh yeah, that happened" kind of thing.  The writing was also pretty bland.  They tried to throw a couple of dwarfs (played by Nick Frost and Rob Brydon) into the second half as comic relief, but other than a couple of moments, that fell flat too.  In this world of Snow White, they couldn't even bother to make those dwarfs a couple of the famous seven dwarfs.  Maybe, that couldn't work because of the first film?  I don't know.

One positive is the cast.  Theron and Hemsworth both come back.  Theron is always great.  Hemsworth is the star of the show, and even though he's not given much in the way of great dialogue, he was still fun to watch and did well with what he was given.  They traded up a little by giving up Stewart and bringing in Blunt and Chastain.  Sadly Blunt was also not given much to do.  She spent most of the movie screaming people into an icy coma and making ice walls.  She does have a cool little ice owl that, when she wears her ice mask, she can see what it sees.  The way it moved kind of reminded me of the mechanical owl in Clash of the Titans.  Chastain was given a little more to do, being the bad-ass love interest of Hemsworth and all.  Just like him, she did quite well with what she was given.

Even if the story and writing are a little lacking, it is a fantasy movie, and this is where they do give us a little bit of something.  The world they built looks nice.  It's got creatures big and small from little fairies to big trolls.  Even when they were traveling through the woods, you would see subtle details like different variations of small animals scurrying around.  All of this stuff looked good too.  The fighting was also done fine.  Sometimes the cuts would be a little quick, but some of the stuff looked good.

This movie mostly just suffers from generic story and dialogue.  There's nothing really wrong with this movie, but there is nothing truly memorable about it either.  The action is good, the acting is good, and it moves along at a pretty good pace.  It's not anything you need to rush out to see.  It's that fantasy movie you'll sit and watch if you run across it on cable and there's nothing else on.

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