From the brilliance that was “Kubo and the Two Strings” (check my previous review to hear all about that), to something that is likely to not hit the same dizzying levels. “The Huntsmen: Winter’s War” may well just be a B-tier release for Universal, but the first movie wasn’t that bad. So on that level… can it reach these cliff edges of normality?
Well, describing the synopsis isn’t an easy start, mainly from my lack of memory of the previous entry, but also from the rather complicated and muddled set up. To keep things nice and short, Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) is taking control over her sister Freya (Emily Blunt), until Freya’s newborn is killed and she becomes the Snow Queen in her rage and anguish. She makes for the North to make her own kingdom devoid of love, and aims to rule over the realms. Two children captured to be trained as soldiers, named Eric (Chris Hemmsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain), fall in love in their later years, leading to betrayal by Freya. In the meantime, Ravenna’s mysterious Mirror goes missing on its carriage to Sanctuary under the orders of Snow White, and Eric is tasked to find it before it falls into the wrong hands.
Christ, I had to go a long way into the story to even give an acceptable explanation of what happens. And with the majority of the opening taking place in the past and accompanied by narration by… someone, you can’t blame me for dropping a spoiler or two. It isn’t the smoothest of starts as it drops information like a B-52 Bomber run, and yet add up to a very simple story that could have been translated to the audience far easier.
But then again, I’m sure you have taken note of a few of the actors I mentioned, this has a seriously talented cast to boast about. On that note it is Theron and Blunt that offer the most interesting performances. They are cold, greedy for their power, and devious. The side cast are okay for what they provide, a few little jokes that get a laugh or two, enough variety in their personalities to keep everything from cascading into a blurry mess.
“Okay” is certainly the word for this review, as it captures a hell of a lot of the details in relation to what happens. The action has a few moments, but no major battles that really capture your attention. But there are traces of good fighting though. The effects are relatively standard, but again, a few traces of originality here and there that catch your eye. The effects with the Mirror are cool enough. And the scenery is nice, but not breath-taking panoramas that a Fantasy Adventure like this really needs.
I watched the Extended Edition of the film, but didn’t detect any major scenes that felt new. Maybe a few bit here and there that add a tiny amount of depth, but not enough to make it increase in quality. But the main elements that really let the side down include the aspect which I related to earlier – the pacing. By God is it a fucking bore in the opening. Getting past all the details and information drops feels like a chore, like even the movie is inpatient to just get past it, and then things can properly kick into gear. The action sequences are few and far between, and then there are parts which seem like a scene was missing to explain how they progressed to that point. Even this Extended Edition was probably missing parts that weren’t scrambled up from the cutting floor.
What you get here is a cheap version of “Lord of the Rings”, without the spectacle, the riveting script, the excellent performances, or amazing action. It wants SO BAD t be on the same playing field, but never gets even remotely close.
But then again… “The Huntsmen: Winter’s War” isn’t a total loss. There’s enough to keep you awake, the actors are pretty good, there’s some variation to keep things moving along, and it doesn’t fall completely flat on its face in the mud. There are worse examples of Fantasy Adventure films out there for sure, this one just falls on the fence making it impossible to define as good or bad. It is just “meh”.
Thanks for reading!