Assessment: Rental Worthy
Hey, Everyone! Welcome to another movie review from FlickMuncher.com! Today we’re going to be looking at another current release that hasn’t been receiving a lot of attention, The Huntsman: Winter’s War. The sequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, a modest hit when it came out, this movie was about as anticipated as you can imagine any generic fantasy not named Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter being…which is to say, not at all. So why am I reviewing it then? Because I’m a completely shameless sucker for said generic fantasy movies. So let’s get into it.
WARNING – There will be spoilers in this review. Continue reading at your own risk. Unless you don’t care about spoilers in which case you’ve already ignored this WARNING.
The story of this movie is a little tricky starting off with the first twenty to thirty minutes detailing the backstory of the Huntsmen. Not the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), but Huntsmen, plural. It turns out that back when they were children, they were all kidnapped by the evil Ice Queen Freya (Emily Blunt) to fight her wars and serve as the ultimate soldiers. To make sure that her Huntsmen remain completely loyal to her Freya, get this, completely outlaws love. I don’t know if this just applied to the Huntsmen or to the entire kingdom—which creates a whole host of practical problems—but she does this because of her own backstory where she lost her infant child in a fire and discovered she has ice powers. Oh, and it also turns out that she’s the Evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron)’s younger sister. Go figure.
Anyway, it turns out that outlawing love among soldiers where there are both boys and girls is slightly difficult to enforce because our hero falls in love and marries one of his redhead female comrades named Sara (Jessica Chastain). Needless to say, the Ice Queen isn’t very happy about this and so has Sara killed and the Huntsman left for dead in an icy river.
Cut to several years later, after the events of Snow White and the Huntsman, where the Huntsman is asked by Snow White, or rather Prince Charming I guess since Snow White never actually appears, to go and escort the Evil Queen’s magic mirror to this vaguely safe place called Sanctuary. But his past begins to catch up with him as the Ice Queen also wants the mirror and is willing to do anything to get it. With the help of a couple of dwarves, because this exists in the Snow White movie and there have to be dwarves helping out our protagonist, the Huntsman sets off to stop the Ice Queen from using the mirror to take over the kingdom.
Story-wise, this plot isn’t bad. After all its a common thing in fiction and movies to have a sequel show a new villain that has a beef with the hero because of the previous villain. This movie takes that and adds a further connection between the Huntsman and the Ice Queen by having her treat the huntsmen as her surrogate children. That’s an interesting twist and it explains a lot of her motivation and her actions for much of the film.
Where the movie stumbles is in its execution of those elements. Great ideas inhabit every film but if they aren’t presented well then to the audience, its as if they never existed. Freya’s backstory of losing her child and it driving her mad is an interesting, if often-used, idea. But when you introduce people to parts of a character is as important as what it is you’re introducing them to. Instead of introducing the audience to Freya’s character slowly and allowing us to see what makes her who she is, the movie gives it to us in one long bout of exposition. I’ll get to the exposition in a minute, but that’s such a waste of a great idea that was never followed through on.
The same goes for the idea of the Mirror itself being possessed somehow and for the Huntsman and his wife, Sara. If you saw the first movie you already know that his wife was supposedly dead and he was a man without a country, so to speak. That could have made his remembering her and her subsequent return from the dead very compelling drama. But instead they give us exposition about the two of them at the beginning so that her return isn’t the least bit surprising or interesting, to us as the audience because we already know their history and what separated them. It’s just poor execution on what could have been some very interesting ideas.
In addition to this it adds in Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen Ravenna at the end as the movie’s “final boss”. I love Charlize Theron’s work and I’ll be singing her praises here soon but her presence in the story completely undercuts Freya as the movie’s villain. Its a simple unspoken logic that if you have a villain in one movie, then the sequel should have a villain that is equally if not more dangerous for the hero to overcome. This takes that in the completely wrong direction. Freya goes from first string baddie to second fiddle in the course of a few minutes after spending the majority as the main antagonist for our heroes. That’s a huge problem when you’re trying to provide a major challenge for our heroes.
I mentioned the exposition at the beginning because its a huge part of what I don’t like about this movie. Liam Neeson plays the role of the Narrator in this section and it sounds like he’s narrating a segment on the Conspiracy Show Channel That Used To Be About History—or is that the actual History Channel? At any rate, the exposition in this movie is utterly awful. It tells us things that we could have easily learned just by seeing these characters interact together and speaks to lazy or rushed writing. That is one of the worst plagues in all of Hollywood and one of my personal pet peeves. SHOW, DON’T TELL!
This movie does deserve some credit though. Some of the landscapes, creatures, and places that are visited in it are dripping with color and imagination even though they are CGI. The phrase “its too CGI” is tossed around a lot but in a day and age when filmmakers use CGI that goes by so fast you barely see it, or hardly use color at all, I found these moments both welcome and refreshing.
The cast should be applauded as well given what they have to work with in this movie. I mentioned Charlize Theron and she’s allowed to be deliciously evil once again in the role of Ravenna, chewing scenery left and right.
Chris Hemsworth is also great as the titular Huntsman. He has a huge amount of confidence and charm to him that makes him the sort of hero that you could see yourself following even if you didn’t know what his plan was. It’s that old-school Errol Flynn-like feel to his performances that makes me wish I could see him in better films. Maybe he should consider getting a new agent.
Emily Blunt brings the amount of grace and hardness that one would expect an actress of her caliber would bring to a character like the Ice Queen but I was disappointed that she didn’t get a lot of moments to stretch her acting legs.
Then there are the Dwarves. These guys are by far the highlight of this entire movie for me. I was laughing regularly whenever they were on screen. The jokes they brought to the table were consistently funny and helped bring a lot of heart and levity to a movie that could’ve easily become too grim to be taken seriously. I could watch a movie of just Chris Hemsworth and those Dwarves sitting around a table talking for two hours. That’s how good they are.
Oddly enough the one part of the cast that doesn’t really stand out to me is Jessica Chastain as Sara. There’s nothing particularly wrong with her performance. It’s just she doesn’t bring anything special to that role. It’s…forgettable. Which is probably the worst thing anyone can say about any performance.
At one point in the movie one character says to another, “How are you alive?” My sister, who I went to see this movie with, leaned over to me and said sarcastically “I think that’s the prevailing question.” I think a lot of people will agree with her, not just about what’s in the movie but about the movie itself.
How is it alive? As I said before, Snow White and the Huntsman was a modest success but it wasn’t a blockbuster. The worst thing about this movie is that there wasn’t really much need for it to be made.
That being said however, I do like a lot of the elements that were put into this film. It’s well done technically and a lot people worked really hard to put it together. Its no Lord of the Rings but I can’t say I wasn’t entertained by it which is more than I can say for some other fantasy movies I’ve seen. And really, that’s what a movie is supposed to do. Some films do it better than others but for what I paid for, I don’t regret buying a ticket to this one. If you see it in a rental box sometime, I’d check it out.
Have you seen this movie? What did you think of it? Let me know in the comments below or tell me on twitter @Lightwielder524. In the meantime, have a great week and May the Flick be with You!