Monday, April 25, 2016

A Reel Review: THE HUNSTMAN - WINTER'S WAR


 
The story of Snow White and her world has been a permanent fixture in storytelling for over 200 years. After humble beginnings as a fairy tale, Walt Disney added to his empire with his landmark film adaptation in 1937. Most recently, director Rupert Sanders dipped the character back into its fantasy roots with SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN in 2012. Its sequel, sub-titled WINTER’S WAR, has a new director and doesn’t bother with Snow White herself, but instead focuses on her world.

Set some years before the events of the first film, the evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), using her magic mirror, betrays her sister Freya (Emily Blunt), who turns herself into an evil ice queen. Freya builds an army over the years which includes Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain). When Freya senses the love between Eric and Sara, she separates them. Flash-forward to after the events of THE HUNTSMAN, and Eric is recruited by two dwarves (Nick Frost and Rob Brydon), to find the now-missing mirror before Freya does.

Showing no shame, WINTER’S WAR is a film which fully embraces the fantasy roots of Snow White; specifically, the world that she inhabits. Its world is packed full of dwarves, fairies, goblins, witches, magic-spells, swordplay, bow-play, and axe-play…all set up in a days-of-high-adventure atmosphere. All that is dressing under the meal, and the meal WINTER’ WAR is serving is a little meek. The story, which runs around a camera-absent Snow White, feels more complicated than it should have been. The idea for the film to serve as both a prequel and a sequel to the first film bogs things down a little, and for a film that is primarily concerned with fetching a magic object and defeating an evil witch, the road to get there is way too complicated…despite the insertion of some nice twists and turns.

But where WINTER’S WAR really fails is that the film is so incredibly BORING. Pacing is a major issue as characters plod from one setpiece to another, and by the time they get there for another fight scene it’s hard to care. The battles are done well enough from a choreography point-of-view, but there is no energy, excitement, thrill, or any reason to care. It’s hard to tell if the film lost its way while shooting or in the editing room, but for a film that is immersed in a great-looking visual effects-feast in a fantasy world, it’s shocking just how dull everything really feels.

Acting is a mess. Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain drop in and out of their odd Irish accents, with Hemsworth struggling the most as most of his lines come out garbled. The two of them look great in their medieval outfits slinging arrows and axes, but sadly don’t generate much chemistry between each other. Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt whisper their way through the movie with occasional outbursts, and each one of these fine actresses had to feel ridiculous with some the things they were asked to do. Comedy relief is asked of Nick Frost and Rob Brydon as dwarves, but not one of their jokes or gags can generate the slightest giggle.

The movie looks amazing, James Newton Howard’s score sounds great, and the over-qualified cast fits their outfits well and swing their weapons around nicely, but WINTER’S WAR, after a very noisy final scene, is very much all flash with no substance. There are moments here and there which threaten to salvage things, but the overall lack of energy, rhythm, and forward-motion is very disturbing and shows a lack of understanding the filmmakers have for their craft. No fairy tale should be this torturous to sit through.

BOTTOM LINE: Fuck it


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