Sunday, September 18, 2016

The Huntsman: Winter's War (2016) Review:

The Brother's Grim fairytale of Snow White seemed to be the popular story to retell for the year 2012. Two polar interpretations of the story had been made that same year. Mirror Mirror (2012) was the more lighthearted take while Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) went the opposite route with darker and edgier visuals. Of the two, the most successful was the movie that starred Kristen Stewart, Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron. The production itself looked much more epic in scope, had bigger star power and had a different story to tell. After the success of the film, production began to role for the sequel. However troubles emerged when Stewart did not return as Snow White. Once that happened, the momentum that the studio had gained ended up getting stuck in development. For a while the studio went through a number of directors, including Frank Darabont the guy who made The Green Mile (1999) and The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Eventually the ball started rolling again and this is the end result, which could've been worse.

Hemsworth and Chastain
Directing duties for this movie were given to Cedric Nicolas-Troyan in his debut. For most of his career Troyan has been a visual effects artist for movies like The Ring (2002), Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl (2003) and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest (2006). He also has some partial directing experience as a second unit director to Snow White and the Huntsman (2012) and Maleficent (2014). Originally stated to be a prequel to Snow White and the Hunstman (2012), the story is actually a prequel and a sequel, in which case there is no word to categorize this whatsoever. First the story explains as to how Eric the Hunstman (Chris Hemsworth) became what he was by the time Snow White and the Hunstman (2012) occurred. Audiences will also learn that he has a wife named Sara (Jessica Chastain). Together they lived under the rule of Freya (Emily Blunt), an Ice Queen and sister of Ravenna (Charlize Theron). Freya believes all children should be torn from their families and made into huntsmen after the loss of her child.

When Freya learns that Sara and Eric are in love, she separates them leading Eric to the events of the prior movie. Then the story begins its sequel where Eric seeks to destroy Freya. Written by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin, this duo's work is acceptable to some degree. Spiliotopoulos is known for writing more Disney movies like The Jungle Book 2(2003) and The Lion King 1 1/2 (2004). Mazin has done more comedies like Scary Movie 3(2003) and Scary Movie 4 (2006). What might amaze the most critical of viewers is that for once the script was written with keeping the missing main characters in mind. Surely Kristen Stewart does not show up on screen once but she is at least referenced verbally and that's all films like these ask for. A simple reference. Along with that is the fact that the new characters help create a bit of depth to the original characters. That's always good to see. However this does not excuse the other problems that arise throughout this movie.

The fact that certain characters return (major or minor) and others don't doesn't make a lot of sense. There's no clear reason given from these individuals as to why they return other than stating vague answers. There's also hazy motivations when it comes to Freya. Freya creates an army of huntsmen warriors to "free" children from their lives and train them as her new army. What exactly is she trying to achieve? Sooner or later there will be no areas to concur. For actors and the roles they play all seem to be enjoying their part. Hemsworth and Chastain have okay chemistry together. Blunt and Theron look like they could be sisters too, although Theron looks to be loving her part the most. There's also appearances from Sam Caflin as Prince William and Nick Frost as Nion the dwarf. The new supporting roles added to the cast are more dwarfs played by Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach. All of which do not add any context to the story itself and more for just comic relief, which is okay.

"Did you know that I got the same pay as the Huntsman?"
With the director of this film being more experienced in the visual effects department, no doubt would the CGI look decent here. There's a barely a shot here that looks out of place or too obvious to be fake. The liquid gold mirror is still an awesome effect even though it completely references the T-1000 from Terminator 2: Judgement Day (1991). The same could also be said for Freya's ice powers, she may be a villain but she makes things look very pretty. The cinematography goes hand-in-hand thanks to Phedon Papamichael. Papamicheal has had his fair share of cinematic films and it shows. The camerawork for the most part is stable and has plenty of panning wide shots for the audience to get a complete view of the scenery. Working the musical score was James Newton Howard who also worked on the music to Snow White and the Huntsman (2012). Strangely enough Howard doesn't make a new theme for Freya or Eric the huntsman yet keeps Ravenna's memorable theme in tact. And if there was a main theme, it wasn't that recognizable. Come on Howard.

Played like a double-edged sword, this film acts as a prequel and a sequel to that of Snow White and the Huntsman (2012). It may not be as great as the first entry, which isn't surprising but it does make significant connections to the first without dropping everything. It still may lack clarity on certain parts but the action, effects, camerawork and music still entertain.

Points Earned --> 6:10

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