The Huntsman: Winter’s War

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“Now with 43% fewer dwarves, and 99% less Kristin Stewart.”

I did not see Snow White And The Huntsman: my tolerance for Kristin Stewart went after Chris decided we should watch all three Twilight movies [to her credit, a decision she bitterly regretted]. So I can’t say how this compares to its predecessor. On it’s own though, it brings us a trio of kick-ass heroines, some truly awesome visuals, and Stewart at a “made in a factory than also manufactures peanut products” level. If not without its problems, I’ll take that as a foundation, every day and twice on Sundays. There are two stories here: Queens Ravenna (Theron) and Freya (Blunt), sisters who part ways after Freya’s child is killed, with the betrayed Freya heading to the frozen North to rule her empire with a will of iron. Ravenna goes on to magic mirror blah poison apple blah blah dwarves – you know that bit – before apparently being killed.

Meanwhile, Freya’s army is spearheaded by a mixed gender platoon of soldiers, trained from young children under her sole commandment: do not love. Naturally, that doesn’t work, with Eric (Hemsworth) and Sara (Chastain) falling for each other and trying to elope. They’re caught, Sara apparently killed, and Eric tossed off a cliff. He survives, going on to become Snow White’s Huntsman in the original movie. Fast forward a few years, and he’s sent to recover Ravenna’s magic mirror, which has been stolen while in transit to a place where its evil power can be contained. However, Freya is also after it, believing she can use the mirror to reclaim her sister’s kingdom and expand her own.

huntsmanWhile Chastain kicks surprising amounts of butt, the love story here is likely the least interesting aspect of the film, though it has some competition down at the bottom with the comic-relief dwarves (look, we love Nick Frost as much as the next people… but this was like watching a beloved uncle get falling-down drunk). Far more interesting is the Freya/Ravenna dynamic: both actresses go full-bore into their roles and it’s quite glorious to watch, helped by some quite incredible costumes, and use of special effects that enhance the atmosphere, rather than just being used for shock and awe. Ravenna’s entrance – technically, re-entrance – is just spectacular, and likely won’t be beaten this year. I was surprised the budget was as low as $115 million, because it looks as good as anything I’ve seen, to the point when I’m seriously considering a Blu-Ray purchase (and I’ve got maybe a dozen of those, so that’s rare indeed).

It’s a shame this wasn’t more successful. Maybe it helps I haven’t seen Frozen either, to which I’ve seen a number of reviews compare this. Admittedly, the story needs more focus, and should have decided whether to be a prequel or a sequel. Hemsworth and Chastain should not have bothered with unconvincing Scottish accents either. Yet it overcomes these issues with sheer force of will from the actresses involved. All three have some pedigree in the action genre; Theron and Chastain most obviously, but even Blunt played one of Boudica’s daughters, back in 2003. They take the material more seriously than it likely deserves (unquestionably, more seriously than Hemsworth, Frost or the other male actors), and their gravitas helps drag the viewer along with them. And even when it can’t quite pull that off, you can still admire the pretty pictures.

Dir: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Star: Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron

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