Saturday, April 23, 2016

Movie Review #414: "The Huntsman: Winter's War" (2016)

Movie"The Huntsman: Winter's War"
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 54 minutes
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After her baby is murdered by her lover, Freya's (Emily Blunt) heart is broken and her true inner power is unleashed. She uses her new found ice powers to create a kingdom in the north where love is outlawed. Freya creates an army of elite huntsman that have been trained since childhood to fight in her name as their one true queen and expand her kingdom. When her two greatest huntsmen, Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) fall in love and want to run away together, Freya uses her powers to drive them apart. Now, many years later, Eric may have his chance for revenge.

"The Huntsman: Winters War" is a prequel/sequel to 2012's "Snow White and the Huntsman," a movie with a lot of potential and some really cool visuals, but brought down by stale acting and bad writing. This film marks the directorial debut of Cedric Nicolas- Troyan, who prior to this had primarily worked in visual effects. Right off the bat, we have to complain about another trailer ruining a movie. The trailers and marketing for this film are very misleading. The title is a poor description of the film as a whole, and the trailer manages the magnificent feat of completely misrepresenting what the film is about, while simultaneously giving far too much of its plot away. Why companies and studios do this, we will never understand. Doesn't everyone involved in a project, like, want to make money? Dissuading an audience and leading them in a direction that gives too much away will isolate more viewers, we think. We digress, if you manage to avoid trailers for the most part and want to watch this film, you're lucky.

If you can look past the horribly bad mismarketing for "The Huntsman: Winter's War," this is actually a fairly entertaining film, one that, in many ways, is superior to its predecessor. Gone are the days of Kristen Stewart's stodgy, emotionless acting with a horrible British accent, and in its place are Emily Blunt as Queen Freya, a real Brit with a commanding, fierce screen presence, and Jessica Chastain as Sara, who has more actual human emotion in her little finger than in all of KStew's existence (though her Scottish accent is pretty damn terrible). Back again is Chris Hemsworth as the Huntsman, who has been given a name this time around??? In the beginning of the movie, we learn of Eric's backstory and how Queen Freya drove a literal ice wedge between him and his beloved Sara. After we get a grasp on how Freya makes her "army," which doesn't really ever go anywhere in the grand scheme of the title of the movie, the film jumps several years to a time after Snow White (aka Kristen Stewart from the original) has become queen. With a cameo from her hubby William, played by Sam Claflin, we are brought up to speed on what's going on in her kingdom. It feels a little bit messy and is basically an excuse to  bring the film into the present, but we guess it sort of works.

Once again, "Winter's War" is full of some great imagery. It's all quite pretty looking when it comes to its set decoration and location shots, the ones that aren't entirely created with a computer. Though some of the CGI is good, such as the gold melting mirror (something that was also in the original), other parts of it, such as the overly phony looking fairies and goblin forest creatures and some of the magic used by Freya and Ravenna, aren't quite as good as the effects displayed in "Snow White and the Huntsman," which was all style and no substance. Though the budget is a bit less than that of its predecessor, we are firm believers that any movie with over a $100 million budget shouldn't have CGI that looks as mediocre as it does here. Instead, where this sequel does its best to distinguish itself is in its emotional elements and its much more exciting and thrilling action sequences. We really believe Hemsworth and Chastain, bad accents and all, as a couple fighting to reconcile with finding one another again. Blunt is a brilliant actress, and even in a dopey movie like this, we find her mildly appealing through her Elsa-On-Anger-Pills routine. She might scream a lot to draw out her powers, but she's just so good, we don't actually mind hearing her casual screech. The chemistry between characters, including the returning Charlize Theron as Ravenna, it somehow more believable in this sequel.

Sure, "The Hunstman: Winter's War" is an absolute fluff piece devoid of any powerful significance with the same basic story we have seen many times before, but sometimes, you just want to watch something fluffy. This is a pleasing enough choice if you don't mind a looooooooooot of talk about love and betrayal for love. We don't get all the hate this film has been garnering, maybe it has to do with the aforementioned poor marketing. This time, "Huntsman" is a little more fun and even a bit funny, which is vastly different from its predecessor, which seemed far too desperate to be taken seriously. There is enough excitement to keep you mostly engaged throughout its slightly shorter run time, which is something the original lacked, though there are the occasional moments of dullness. This simple by-the-numbers fantasy will work for people who are not looking for anything too serious to watch on a weekend with friends, but let's be real, there didn't need to be a sequel to "Snow White and the Huntsman." This movie serves as yet another unnecessary example of how any film that makes over $100 million domestically gets an automatic sequel, no matter how shoehorned in the plot appears.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6.5/10
IMDB's Rating: ~6.2/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: ~18%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "True Story"

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