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New Release Review - THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR

Prequel to 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman.

Review by Eric Hillis (@hilliseric)

Directed by: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Starring: Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Chris Hemsworth, Sam Claflin, Ralph Ineson, Nick Frost, Sheridan Smith



"Bollocks", "wanker" and "piss off" are three phrases heard here. Elsewhere, Chastain cracks a joke about the Huntsman making women "wet", and comes dangerously close to showing nipple in a sex scene that's steamier than anything we saw in Fifty Shades of Grey. Probably not one for little Jimmy's eighth birthday party then.


There was a story floating around a few years ago in which Val Kilmer and Warwick Davis travelled to New Zealand and filmed themselves trotting across that country's famed mountain-scapes in an attempt to convince George Lucas to make a Willow sequel. Sadly the story appears to be a hoax, but the honest truth is I'd gladly watch several hours of unedited footage of Kilmer and Davis lugging themselves up hills rather than sit through the second rate Willow knockoff that is The Huntsman: Winter's Bore a second time.


In a voiceover narration that sounds a lot like a promo for a local hardware store on a provincial Irish radio station, an uncredited Liam Neeson tells us that us that there's more to the story of Snow White than that seen in the 2012 Kristen Stewart vehicle Snow White and the Huntsman. Some time before the events of that film, Evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) has a falling out with her sister Freya (Emily Blunt), causing the latter to flee and use her skills of manipulating ice to establish her own evil tyranny.

Freya builds up an army of 'Huntsmen', a rather sexist term given half of them are girls. One of these girls grows up to be the 39-year-old actress Jessica Chastain, which makes you wonder what she was up to in the intervening quarter century or so. One of the boys grows up to be Chris Hemsworth. He's named The Huntsman, which is odd, given how he's merely one of many huntsmen. After hanging out together for presumably decades, the Huntsman finally decides to tell Chastain's Sara how he feels. Best not to rush these things I guess. After a (literally) steamy romp in the castle's hot tub, Sara marries the Huntsman, and the two decide to elope, but Freya has other plans.


I've barely scratched the surface of the film's premise, but THWW is the sort of movie in which nothing of interest occurs, but everything could be considered a spoiler. Besides, I would require cliff notes to summarise further, as I honestly haven't a breeze what the actual plot of this movie is. At no point was I ever able to figure out why the characters were in a certain location or what their motivations or goals were. The Huntsman sets off on some sort of journey, accompanied by a pair of comic relief dwarfs (Nick Frost and Rob Brydon), but  the rest is a mystery to me. Something about a mirror, I think.

Frost and Brydon's dwarfs represent the film's biggest failing. With charismatic stars like Peter Dinklage and the aforementioned Warwick Davis available, why do we need to digitally shrink actors? Frost and Brydon are hardly box office draws, and isn't this practice morally troublesome, like a vertical variation on blackface? Disregarding the ethical implications of such a practice, it presents technical problems; it's all too clear at times that Hemsworth wasn't in the same room as the digitally diminutive duo, and the necessary comic timing is butchered in the editing. A pair of female dwarfs (Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach) show up later on to provide the sort of bawdy humour that would fit a drunken hen night but feels uncomfortably out of place in what is presumably a movie aimed at kids. Or is it? "Bollocks", "wanker" and "piss off" are three phrases heard here. Elsewhere, Chastain cracks a joke about the Huntsman making women "wet", and comes dangerously close to showing nipple in a sex scene that's steamier than anything we saw in Fifty Shades of Grey. Probably not one for little Jimmy's eighth birthday party then.


Ultimately, THWW is a tale of confusion. Asked to shove a square peg into a round hole, the screenwriters are unable to come up with a convincing and simple narrative, leaving the audience scratching their heads in a futile attempt to make sense of any of this. But the film's biggest crime is in taking up the valuable time of Blunt, Theron and Chastain, three of the most engaging actresses we currently have. This could have been a catfighting epic, but none of the ladies are given the chance to bare their claws.
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