By Adam Ray Palmer
Today's review is the second instalment in a big-budget fairy-tale franchise. This movie follows the 2012 hit, Snow White and the Huntsman, which starred an array of talent - most of which return for this outing.
The Huntsman: Winter's War serves as a sequel, yet also a prequel, to the 2012 film. Kristen Stewart does not return to this follow-up as it tells a side-story where Snow White is only briefly mentioned.
Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, and Sam Claflin all return with extra talent in Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt coming aboard…
As two evil sisters prepare to conquer the land; two renegades - Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) - who previously aided Snow White in defeating Ravenna (Charlize Theron), and his forbidden lover, Sara (Jessica Chastain) set out to stop them.
That quick snapshot of the narrative is probably a bit confusing, but hey, I am just saying it as it is. This film is quite (un)clearly a ‘sidequel’ film which basically means it is occurring before and after the 2012 film Snow White and The Huntsman. For instance, this film begins with the evil Ravenna (we know she’s’ evil because of she plays a game of chess overly sexy with a thigh-ripped dress on) making her sister’s lover kill their baby daughter; thus releasing Freya’s (Emily Blunt) evil inside. Freya becomes known as the Ice Queen who moves up north and embarks on building her own army of huntsman.
This is where we meet Jessica Chastain and Thor, sorry Chris Hemsworth. The loved-up pair play Sara and Eric who are nabbed as children by the Ice Queen and trained to be skilled fighters. From here on in, this is where the plot goes a bit awry. We end up jumping seven years forward (during which time the 2012 film happens) and then we are at the present day with Eric wondering around some pretty woods alone.
The film has a lot of promise during the first thirty minutes but it then begins to lose its way. The character development is all over the place and the narrative quickly gets pumped out at lightning speed. There is very little time to drum up momentum and enough interest to be hooked. You want this to be an epic fantasy franchise but it becomes a limp tribute to a Lord of the Rings film. In the space of half an hour; Sam Claflin rides into shot, gives Eric some news about the missing mirror (Frodo’s ring), Eric goes to find said mirror with some dwarfs (hobbits), fights a big goblin (an orc) and then ends up at the Ice Queen’s palace to destroy it (Mordor) – see where I am coming from?
However, it’s these final scenes where we see a great acting ‘battle off’ between Theron and Blunt. They bounce off each other so well and constantly tussle for the best sequences. Sadly though, these rare moments of acting goodness are spoiled by poor narrative structure, let alone dodgy Scottish accents.
I really enjoyed the first half an hour but if I had known that the latter part of the film would have had to suffer, I would have wished that the backstory would have cut up a bit. We end up being thrust far too quickly into the climatic scenes. If it wasn’t for the Liam Neeson voice over, we would have no idea what is going on or how we can jump time periods so effectively. It’s these scenes that Neeson narrates where we miss key milestones. We hear about how Eric and Sara fighting so many battles side by side but we never actually see one.
The film is just too disjointed. It is certainly enjoyable but it can annoy you. The film’s dark opening with moody central protagonists sets you up for a gruelling epic fantasy film, but only 20 minutes later, we have Eric knocking back the beers and sharing a joke with a couple of dwarfs – make your mind up writers! The movie ends up getting lost and it cannot decide which way it wants to go. So, in the end, it tries to cover all bases but ends up as a luke-warm mishmash.
The mishmash is confirmed when the ultimate confrontation at the end arrives and there is no intensity whatsoever because the narrative hasn’t built it up correctly. We barely see the ‘arch-nemesis’ throughout so the audience have no real feelings towards her. It’s a shame, Winter’s War could be so much better.
Cineroom’s Rating: 2 Stars
The Huntsman: Winter’s War is currently showing worldwide in selected cinemas – certificate 12A