Action Adventure

'The Huntsman: Winter's War' Film Review: Cheesy but fun, so let it go

April 22, 2016Ben MK

Disney's Frozen was a mega-hit, so why not mine the idea for a live-action adaptation? Honestly, the House of Mouse will probably do exactly that in a few years. In the meantime, however, we'll just have to settle for The Huntsman: Winter's War, a movie that borrows from Frozen, as well as a number of other fantasy films, with unimaginative — though not entirely unenjoyable — results.

The Huntsman: Winter's War isn't just a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, it's also a prequel, as its opening moments take place before the events of that 2012 film. In this first part of the movie, we're not only reintroduced to the wicked Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who uses her dark magic powers to overthrow kingdoms and seize them for her own, we also meet her younger sister Freya (Emily Blunt), who's kindhearted — that is, until her baby perishes in a fiery blaze, causing Freya to immediately manifest frost powers and turn evil.

Her heart now literally as cold as ice, Freya retreats to the north, where she begins training an army of kidnapped children to be her Huntsmen. And, of course, this is where Chris Hemsworth enters the picture, reprising his role as Eric, the film's titular hero. Alongside Sara (Jessica Chastain), he's Freya's top warrior, responsible for helping the ice queen expand her kingdom by toppling others. When Eric and Sara break Freya's cardinal rule by falling in love, however, Freya punishes them, imprisoning Sara in her dungeon and sending Eric floating downstream.

Fast forward seven years, and Eric has not only survived being dumped into the river by Freya, he's also helped Snow White vanquish Ravenna. But when Ravenna's magic mirror goes missing, Eric is summoned back into action. This time, he's paired up with Nion (Nick Frost), one of the dwarfs from the first film, and Nion's half-brother Gryff (Rob Brydon). Together, the trio embark on a journey to retrieve the mirror before it falls into Freya's hands, with a little help from a pair of female dwarfs (Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach) and a tough-as-nails Sara.

"But wait a minute," you might say, "I thought Winter's War was all about the battle between Ravenna and Freya?" Yes, Ravenna and Freya do indeed face off in the film; however, Theron's screen time is far from what the movie's trailers might lead you to believe. When she is on-screen, though, it's clear that she's having a blast chewing the scenery, and her enjoyment is infectious. It's just a pity that Theron's role wasn't a bit bigger, because the film could definitely benefit from more of the specific brand of queen-bitch-psycho-crazy her character brings to the table.

Otherwise, novice director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and screenwriters Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin get by by shamelessly lifting elements from Winter's War's fantasy genre brethren. And it's not limited to Frozen either; there are also shades of Brave and The Hobbit and The Chronicles of Narnia series. The result is at best visually intriguing, and at worst, a hodgepodge of storybook clich├ęs. Luckily, the film doesn't take itself too seriously, and neither should moviegoers. Instead, just sit back, let your expectations go, and things will end happily ever after.

The Huntsman: Winter's War releases April 22nd, 2016 from Universal Pictures. The film has an MPAA rating of PG-13 for fantasy action violence and some sensuality. Its runtime is 1 Hr. 54 Mins.

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