The Huntsman: Winter's War(2016)
- RatedPG13 /GenreAdventure, Fantasy
Will there ever be a ‘happily ever after’?
That oft-written phrase usually ends a fairy-tale where a charming prince who previously saved a damsel in distress – normally a princess – will live a life of wedded bliss.
But the world where director Rupert Sanders set up in 2012’s ‘Snow White And The Huntsman’ is not your typical tale.
More grim tales than fairy tales, think ‘Game of Thrones’ level of bleakness. As dark as it is, the movie was a commercial success despite being critically derided. It raked in US$396 million in box office receipts; thanks to its vivid and lush production designs, and Charlize Theron’s impeccable portrayal of the evil Queen Ravenna.
Anyone expecting an equally dour movie will be in for a surprise, ‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’ is an unexpectedly upbeat follow-up. Sharper, and way wittier, the movie, directed by VFX wiz-turned-director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, is a more entertaining entry than its predecessor due in part to two franchise newcomers.
Sorry Kir-Stew fans, the deadpan one isn’t in this movie.
We last saw Eric The Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) vanquishing Ravenna, and with the kingdom now rid of evil, Snow White has some governing to do.
But little did they know, that once upon a time, Ravenna had a sister, Freya (Emily Blunt). The story starts in the past, with Freya being the ubiquitous lovely princess until her new-born baby goes up in a puff of smoke. Heartbroken, she unleashes her rage, turning into an ice queen that will put Elsa to shame.
She exiles herself to the north, builds an ice palace and gathers an army. But this is no ordinary army – her minions rampaged and pillaged nearby villages, and then kidnap the children, conscripting them into her soldiers. Huntsmen, they’re called.
“Do not love!” Freya barks, but two of her best, Eric (Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) defy her, until their icy Queen discovers their betrayal and splits them apart.
The movie then fast-forwards to seven years after the events of ‘Snow White’ where the adult Eric, now living a solitary life in the woods, is roped in to go on a quest to see to it that Ravenna infernal magic mirror is banished to a godforsaken part of their world.
It’s an odd narrative structure, to take viewers back for a 30-minute prologue before leading the audience into the story proper.
But it somehow works. Film scribes Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin have effectively expanded this universe beyond the story of Snow White.
While Theron dominated the first movie, here Emily Blunt rules. Like Theron, she adds nuance to her role as the fair-haired ice queen. There are instances where the actress can go over the top with her performance, but she manages to reign in the histrionics.
Another scene-stealer is none other than Jessica Chastain. A mix of Furiosa and Katniss Everdeen, Chastain has the fierce huntswoman Sara down pat. While her character is the typical I-don’t-need-any-man’s-help tough girl, Chastain makes it her own. But what let her performance down is her less-than-perfect Scottish accent as well as her chemistry with co-star Chris Hemsworth.
If you can recall the previous movie, Eric mentioned about his dearly departed wife. Surprise, surprise, she is not dead. Hemsworth and Chastain try to project an inkling of romance into the story, however Chastain’s dark portrayal of Sara doesn’t gel with Hemsworth’s lighter take on Eric.
But what’s a movie in this world without the dwarves? Providing a bit of comic relief to balance all that gloom are he-dwarves Nion (Nick Frost), Gryff (Rob Brydon) and she-dwarves Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith) and Doreena (Alexandra Roach).
The movie changes gears again in the third act when the action picks up, turning into a CGI-laden fantasy fest. Here is where Theron’s evil queen is back in the picture to let evil rip.
Veering away from the Snow White story while still contained in the universe is a clever way for the studio to explore the possibility of a movie franchise. ‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’ ingeniously opens the doors to adaptations within the canon.
Boasting jaw-dropping costumes, sets and production design, plus special effects-laden action sequences awash with rampaging goblins and a shape-shifting arch-villainess, what’s there not to like?
‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’ opens 14 April 2016