Sunday, 17 April 2016

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

© Universal Pictures | Source: Collider
USA; 114 min.; fantasy, adventure, action
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Writing: Evan Spiliotopoulos, Craig Mazin
Cinematography: Phedon Papamichael
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, Alexandra Roach, Sam Claflin, Sope Dirisu, Colin Morgan, Sophie Cookson

“Hello, Huntsman. I have missed you.” – Ravenna 

Remember Rupert Sanders’ 2012 fantasy flick Snow White and the Huntsman? No? Well, no worries, nobody does. It’s the one in which Kristen Stewart’s fairy tale heroine Snow White flees from Ravenna, an evil queen played by Charlize Theron, and, in order to fight her, teams up with Chris Hemsworth’s Huntsman. What was meant to be a feminist stance on the somewhat passive Snow White character became a film that was neither very innovative nor very entertaining. However, the whole thing managed to make a worldwide gross of almost $400 million, having Hollywood consider what it always considers when a film proves to be financially successful: a sequel.

With Stewart and Sanders out of the equation, Universal Pictures decided to give visual effects artist Cedric Nicolas-Troyan his first shot at directing a feature-length film and gathered a cast bound to outshine Stewart’s star power. Hemsworth and Theron are back to reprise their roles, and no other than Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain join in to spruce up the acting cred. Besides all this, a trashy, yet stylish and cool looking trailer raised my hopes that The Huntsman: Winter’s War could actually be fun.

Never get your hopes up, is what I tell you now. Sitting in the cinema a couple of days ago, I quickly realised that Winter’s War is every bit as dull, lame and uninspiring as its predecessor – if not more so. And what is worse is that it actually pains me to say this. I was fully prepared for a diverting adventure filled with deliciously silly CGI effects and a bunch of ladies kicking arse and taking names. What I got was a half-cooked story about love, jealousy, uncharismatic characters and... an evil mirror, I guess. There isn’t even unintended humour to laugh at. The whole thing’s just an almost two-hour long snoozefest.

To begin with, the plot is fairly unspectacular to say the least. In a pre-Snow White storyline, we see how Ravenna, out of jealousy, kills her sister Freya’s (Emily Blunt) newborn baby and has her believe that it was Freya’s beloved (Colin Morgan) who committed the despicable deed. Freya then turns into the Ice Queen and – naturally – is  determined to rule the world and punish all kinds of affectionate bonds. Cue for the Huntsman, who loses his one true love, warrior Sara (Jessica Chastain), to the Ice Queen’s rage. In a post-Snow White storyline, he is instructed to find Ravenna’s infamous mirror-gone-awol and destroy it. Or hide it. I can’t remember. It doesn’t matter. Accompanied by four annoying dwarves (Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, Alexandra Roach), he begins his quest and soon finds out that – oh, surprise! – Sara is still alive and well. When they find the mirror, it’s the cue for Ravenna to make her ‘unexpected’ entrance and be evil.

The story is completely bare of any surprises, twists or turns. The arse kicking lacks coolness. The characters are shallow and not given enough room to develop comprehensible motives for their actions. They have no chemistry, which has the lovey-dovey undertones appear wildly constructed and utterly whatever. And while I could sit through all this completely unruffled, numbed by a state of trance-like boredom, it is the attempts at comic relief, which almost always fall flat, that had me cringe in my seat more than once. At least the CGI effects are indeed silly, but, once you’re stuck in this tedium of a film, you’re far from finding anything delicious.

The only thing Winter’s War has going for it is that Blunt and Theron act their hearts out. Blunt is perfectly emotionless and – beware the pun – cold, and Theron is very wrapped up in playing a wicked, spiteful sorceress. They have nothing to go on, really, but still manage to tickle at least some passion out of their respective roles – some but not enough. They, like the audience, are drowned in an unimaginative, lacklustre story. And, in the end, Ravenna certainly is the only one who has missed the Huntsman.   


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