By Mark Saldana

Rating: 2 (Out of 4 Stars)

Four years ago, Universal released Snow White and the Huntsman, a more mature and action-oriented adaptation of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale.  Even though I enjoyed the performances of Charlize Theron who portrays Raveena the evil queen and Chris Hemsworth as Eric the Huntsman, and found the scenes with the dwarfs rather amusing, the movie overall is a mediocre and unnecessary remake of a tale that has been already been adapted superbly.  Well, despite the mixed reviews it received from critics, the film must have done well enough financially to encourage movie producers to make a follow-up movie.  Serving as both a prequel and a sequel, The Huntsman: Winter’s War does offer some entertainment with more amusing scenes with some dwarf characters and a few thrilling, though poorly shot and edited, action sequences.  Still, much like its predecessor, it is highly questionable whether or not it was really necessary to make this film.

Before the events of the first film, the wicked Raveena (Charlize Theron) discovers that her younger sister Freya (Emily Blunt) has the amazing ability to produce ice at the touch of a hand.  This power manifests at a particularly dark and heartbreaking time in Freya’s life.  Freya goes off on her own, building an ice kingdom and training a massive army of children who eventually grow up to become her soldiers.  One of these soldiers is the Huntsman named Eric (Hemsworth) who falls in love with fellow warrior Sara (Jessica Chastain).  The two lovers commit their lives to one another, but must hide their relationship from the cold-hearted Freya who forbids any expression of love in her kingdom and has her sights on conquering the world.

Written by Evan Spiliotopoulos, Craig Mazin and directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, The Huntsman: Winter’s War suffers from some of the same problems as its predecessor and actually has a few new ones of its own.  Much like the first film, the overall story has some poor writing and a mostly transparent plot.  Also, this movie doesn’t add much to the mythos and comes across as even more derivative of other superior tales.  The Huntsman: Winter’s War promises to give audiences more of a backstory for Raveena, but doesn’t offer anything new in terms of her character development.

Instead, it adds elements of The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Anderson, but lacks the heart and emotion of Disney’s adaptation Frozen.  On the positive side, the filmmakers do offer some interesting story and character development when it comes to the Huntsman Eric and his love Sara.  Still, the end result is a rather messy story which makes the film seem unnecessary in the bigger scheme of things.  The fact that I very much enjoyed Charlize Theron as Raveena in the first film makes this film even more disappointing, as her character has a much smaller role here.

And to be quite honest, I was even less impressed with her performance in this film.  Theron completely embraces the role of villain to the extent that it comes across as an over-the-top caricature.  I was much more impressed with Emily Blunt who portrays the painfully tormented Freya, but feel her character development is shoddily handled.  Even Chris Hemsworth, whose performance I liked in the first film, can’t seem to get a good handle on his accent here.  With such talented actors delivering inconsistent performances, I can only blame director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan who didn’t get the best work from his cast.  On the other hand, actress Jessica Chastain and actors Nick Frost and Rob Brydon deliver the best acting in the movie.  I particularly enjoyed Frost and Brydon who portray the often-bickering dwarfs Nion and Gryff.  Their talents definitely added some much needed comic relief to the film.

Though the film does have a few entertaining moments, I cannot whole-heartedly recommend rushing to local theaters to see this film.  Those who were absolutely in love with the first film may want to watch this lesser follow-up as a video rental.  I feel that the lackluster, overly-derivative writing and the lack of solid direction is to blame for everything that goes wrong with this film.  For sure it wasn’t artistically imperative that this film get made, but that doesn’t mean the filmmakers couldn’t have made a delightfully well-made exercise in popcorn entertainment.  For that reason I do believe it is necessary that this film doesn’t get a substantial amount of box office revenue.



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