“The Huntsman: Winter’s War”

LOUISA:   3.5 STARS    MATT:   4 STARS


LOUISA SAYS:

“The Huntsman: Winter’s War” is a much better movie than it should be. In this sequel (and prequel) to 2012’s also enjoyable “Snow White and the Huntsman,” the classic fairy tale is given a modern storytelling spin. It’s like a grown up, real life version of Disney’s animated “Frozen.”

Emily Blunt plays Freya the ice queen and Charlize Theron is back as her sister, the wicked evil queen Ravenna. There’s a rivalry between the two but thank goodness Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) returns to save the day and sets off to track down the famed mirror mirror on the wall. The hunky huntsman isn’t alone in his heroic quest this time around: allied with him is fellow warrior Sara (Jessica Chastain) and a quartet of sarcastically witty dwarves (Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach). There’s no Kristen Stewart as Snow White this time, but I really didn’t miss her too much.

Before you dismiss this as another ‘damsel in distress’ film, let me assure you it’s not. This is an ass-kicking feminist fantasy action / adventure film, and it works. The cast has great chemistry across the board. The lively fight sequences are well choreographed. There’s just the right mix of slightly suggestive humor (and it’s where the film mostly earns its PG-13 rating). Yes, there’s a love story (and it’s a good one too, sure to appeal to those who love sappy romantic films), but the female-centric fable drives the plot and action. The convoluted and ridiculous plot isn’t the star of the film, but instead this movie is all about the larger-than-life performances, splashy costumes, lavish makeup and dazzling visual effects.

I am not a fan of films that rely heavily on computer generated animation, but only if that animation isn’t competently executed. The effects here are flawless, impressive and extremely well done. Icy walls, black tar daggers, shattered golden mirrors, wisecracking dwarves and more totally immersed me in the imagined world. (Okay, the CGI goblins were a bit of a turnoff but one stinker out of thousands of visuals isn’t too bad).

Fans of costumes will no doubt take great delight in the wardrobing. I found myself gasping at some of the outfits,  especially Ravenna’s ensembles and makeup (her crown, her hair, her accessories, the gold feathered eye makeup…WOW!!!). The show-stopping costumes coupled with the accomplished animated effects make the film a visual feast.

If you want to escape to a fantasy world for a couple of hours and enjoy talented actors, beautiful costumes, a few laughs and some of the best visual effects in recent memory, go see this movie.

MATT SAYS:

This sequel to 2012’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” is surprisingly good and an entertaining watch.

The story is part-sequel, part-prequel, starting with the origin story of Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain), who were trained to fight in the army of Queen Freya (Emily Blunt). After a gap of several years (during which the events of the previous movie took place), the movie finds Eric living in Snow White’s kingdom. After the magic mirror that belonged to evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) goes missing, Eric is sent by Snow White to seek out and retrieve the mirror along with his dwarf sidekicks, Nion (Nick Frost) and Gryff (Rob Brydon).

One of the problems with going to the movies all of the time is that by the time I see a movie in the theater, I’ve almost always seen the trailer for the movie several times (in the case of “Captain America: Civil War,” I’ve probably seen that trailer 20 plus times). As I’m watching the film, I frequently say to myself — “oh, this must be the scene from the trailer where X happens.” Add that together with the fact that most big-budget pictures are almost always intensely predictable, and I find that it’s only in rare instances where I really don’t know exactly where the story is going.

In “The Huntsman: Winter’s War,” I found myself pleasantly surprised, particularly during the critical second act when Hemsworth and Chastain carry the story. Hemsworth is intensely likeable and sympathetic as Eric, and he has an easy chemistry with Chastain that provides a solid foundation for the story. Add in the dependable Blunt and Theron as the two sister queens, and you have a better-than-average big budget movie.

Key negatives are that the battle scenes are filled with the all-too-familiar fast cutting that makes it difficult to follow the action (and is particularly effective at masking lazy fight choreography), and that the resolution of the fight at the film’s climax is a foregone conclusion that lacks dramatic tension. We know what’s going to happen, and watching the characters get there as the final minutes unfold isn’t particularly exciting.

The Hollywood prognosticators have been quick to condemn “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” as the first big flop of 2016. And financially it may be that, but a lack of box office success doesn’t indicate a lack of quality. This movie is good. If you like these actors, it’s worth watching.

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