HUNTSMAN, THE: WINTER'S WAR
As Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and her equally evil sister Freya (Emily Blunt) prepare to conquer the land, two renegades, Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) - who previously aided Snow White in defeating Ravenna - and his forbidden lover, Sara (Jessica Chastain) set out to stop them.
Review by Louise Keller:
Liquid gold morphing into the divine Charlize Theron and Emily Blunt as the glam ice queen are two highlights of this special effects driven tale that struggles valiantly to invent a coherent plot to hold it together. The cast is terrific mind you, with Chris Hemsworth as Eric, the handsome Huntsman and Jessica Chastain as his true love, who never misses her target. But the plot is a stretch and of course everything is in service of the special effects. It is no coincidence that first time director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is no slouch in that area, and to their credit screenwriters Evan Spiliotopoulos, Craig Mazin have done their best to manage the balance between action, romance, comedy and fantasy.
Starting with the fantasy, the premise begins "long before happily ever after" in the kingdom of the power-hungry evil queen Ravenna (Theron) and her placid (plain by comparison) sister Freya (Emily Blunt). Love is the beginning of all the problems as Ravenna's jealousy of her sister's relationship and baby child manifests itself. Along with her magical powers, Freya also acquires a makeover as she becomes the ice queen - a fabulous wardrobe, new sleek, silver hairstyle and glittering silver icy accessories, like the mask through which she can see whatever she wants anywhere in the kingdom. There are also miniature goblins, a giant gold horned gorilla with heavy gold necklace, fireflies at night, crystal ice walls created at will and gigantic snake like creatures that writhe ominously above Ravenna's statuesque gold-clad figure.
There is a generous dose of comedy throughout - from Hemsworth's wry delivery to the creation of the two dwarf characters, amusingly played by Nick Frost and Rob Brydon (special effects once again effectively coming to the fore). There's a funny scene in which Nion (Frost) and Gryff (Brydon) go to great lengths to tell the Huntsman that they find women dwarves unattractive and that it is only the consumption of beer that prompts their interest. Needless to say, the two lady dwarves who appear on the scene (cheekily played by Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach), quickly get the better of the two cocky men.
The action includes axes, knives, swords and arrows as well as gymnastics, climbing icy cliff faces, falling down rooftops and more. The love story between the Huntsman and Chastain's Sara is the central romance - an on-off affair that begins passionately in a hot spring and goes through ups and downs throughout the narrative. ("They're in love; they reek of it", Ravenna sneers at one point.) The establishment of Freya's grief and anger through lost love at the beginning of the film is critical as it sets the foundations of the story and the premise on which everything rests.
As for the far-fetched, preposterous nature to which the filmmakers go to create a semblance of a plot; is there enough entertainment value, or is it all too ridiculous and do we need another complicated story as a prequel to the fairy tale?
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HUNTSMAN, THE: WINTER'S WAR (M)
CAST: Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Sam Claflin, Ralph Ineson, Colin Morgan, Sophie Cookson, Nick Frost, Sheridan Smith
PRODUCER: Joe Roth
DIRECTOR: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
SCRIPT: Evan Spiliotopoulos, Craig Mazin (characters by Evan Daugherty)
CINEMATOGRAPHER: Phedon Papamichael
EDITOR: Conrad Buff IV
MUSIC: James Newton Howard
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dominic Watkins
RUNNING TIME: 114 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Universal
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: April 7, 2016