The Huntsman: Winter’s War

A fantasy with just enough farce to make it fun

I doubt there are many people who have spent the past four years desperately counting down until the sequel of the rather mediocre Snow White and the Huntsman. The film was lacking entertainment and personifies Hollywood’s serious issue with getting ‘dark’ confused with ‘murky’ and deeply frowning viewed as the only way to articulate inner torment. Now we have the prequel/sequel sans Snow White aka. Kristen Stewart (after a certain scandal involving the film’s director Rupert Sanders) who realistically is not much of a loss as she spent most of the film biting her lip. A new threat befalls the kingdom and the Huntsman is called in to help, after we learn more about his mysterious backstory.

Many years ago evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) murdered her way through the land to rule the kingdoms, with her powerless sister Freya (Emily Blunt) by her side. Freya falls in love, something her sister is against as love is a foolish distraction, and has a daughter. When tragedy strikes Freya’s powers are activated (think Elsa-from-Frozen-type powers) and she moves away to take control of her own land. She decides that she must have her own unique army and orphans the children of a village. The children are brought to her castle and taught the one commandment of her rule, that love is a sin. Years pass as the children are trained and moulded into true Huntsman but two children, her two best, break her one rule and fall in love. Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) marry and try to flee but are caught in the process. Freya the Frost, as she is now known, places a great wall of ice between the pair to separate them. Sara appears to be murdered and Eric is thrown into a nearby river to be swept away. Seven years later, after the events of the previous film when Snow White killed Ravenna, Eric is called on by Snow White’s close friend William (Sam Claflin) to stop the Mirror being intercepted by Freya. 

You do not go into films like this with a closed mind. They require a deep suspension of disbelief, with any concepts of logic or reason needing to be locked away for 114 minutes. If you do this you will find this film to be a serviceable and entertaining lark. It would be easy to list all of the flaws within this film but doing so would ignore how relatively entertaining it is.The script is truly mediocre, full of boulder-sized clunky exposition and mawkish sentiments. In fact a bingo or drinking game could be formed based on all the lines/phrases that are uttered about love (‘love is a sin’ ‘love doesn’t conquer all’ ‘love is not a fairytale’ ‘you reek of love’ etc.) There’s a line about wet-never regions which shows how uncertain the filmmakers are about who their audience actually is.  Liam Neeson is on needless and grating omniscient narrator duties.

If you can ignore that, which I know is asking for rather a lot, what is left is a host of charming performances going above and beyond to make the lifeless script fun. Chastain is a fantastic new addition, being far more kick-ass than her running in heels stint in Jurassic World. Hemsworth is as charming as we now expect from him, mugging about and having fun. I doubt there is little I wouldn’t watch if he was in it. Blunt and Theron are solid and borderline-stirring in their villainous portrayals, making some truly dreadful lines sound half-way believable.  Complex issues aside about people playing dwarves the four dwarves who aide the Huntsman on his journey (Nick FrostRob BrydonAlexandra Roach and Sheridan Smith) are great fun and a joy to watch.

It’s not going to win any awards and will most likely be forgotten by the end of the month. It also does not deserve nor need a sequel (instead I would propose a new series called ‘Let’s watch Chris Hemsworth do things’ where we watch Hemsworth do a variety of activities and charm us all). BUT, it is an entertaining enough farce with just enough camp and laughs to fill a dull afternoon/evening.

 2 stars

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