‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’ Review

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Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Writers: Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin

Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, Alexandra Roach, Sope Dirisu, Sam Hazeldine, and Sam Claflin.

Synopsis: As a war between rival queen sisters Ravenna and Freya escalates, Eric and fellow warrior Sara, members of the Huntsman army raised to protect Freya, try to conceal their forbidden love as they combat Ravenna’s wicked intentions.

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a spoiler free review.*

 

When Snow White and the Huntsman came out back in 2012, the film was met with a mixed – a tad more negative – reaction. The film had some interesting things going for it and had compelling characters in Eric the Huntsman and Queen Ravenna. This is saying something, considering the main character in the film was, well, Snow White. So, Universal Pictures decided to take one of the most compelling characters in the original and give him an origin story, but also give Snow White and the Huntsman a sequel without really involving the character of Snow White. Does it work? Sort of.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War starts by showing us how Eric (Hemsworth) essentially became the Huntsman along with fellow warrior Sara (Chastain). The two were taken from their homes by Freya (Blunt), the sister of Ravenna (Theron), who after losing her baby unleashed a secret power within her that gives her the power of ice. Freya’s one rule for her Huntsmen is that love is forbidden. However, Eric and Sara fall in love. When Freya finds out she takes action, which goes into spoiler territory unless you absolutely remember everything in Snow White and the Huntsman.

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The film then jumps forward seven years after those events, and now takes place after the events in Snow White and the Huntsman. Eric is now a trusted member of Snow White’s guard, although Snow White is not really in the film and is only seen from behind in a very quick seen. So when Prince William (Claflin) – in his only scene – comes to him to tell him Ravenna’s mirror has gone missing, Eric takes it upon himself, with two dwarfs in Nion (Frost) and Gryff (Brydon), to go find the mirror and take it to The Sanctuary (again, if you remember the first film, it’s the magical forest). Of course, Freya is not too far behind, and Sara joins the fight.

There are some things to really like about The Huntsman: Winter’s War. Like its predecessor, some of the visual effects are top notch and are pretty great to get into. Some of the characters are great like the new addition of Emily Blunt’s Freya, Jessica Chastain’s Sara, and the dwarfs of Rob Brydon’s Gryff, Sheridan Smith’s Mrs. Bromwyn, and the returning Nick Frost as Nion.

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Chris Hemsworth’s Eric the Huntsman has more time to breathe since he takes the lead role here. It is a bit hard to take Hemsworth’s performance as the Huntsman’s a bit seriously because sometimes I see him as a hammerless Thor, it’s not a bad thing, but it’s just the natural charm that he brings to his roles. Jessica Chastain, who is always reliable in anything she does and is reliable here too, but it takes just a tad bit of time to get use to the fact that she has an accent. The supporting cast of Frost,Brydon and Smith have unbelievable chemistry together and are one of the best parts of the film, and give some lightheartedness to the film.

Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron as the two queen sisters have some great scenes together. The problem is that they don’t get enough time together, despite what the trailers and promotional ads have you believe, and it is a shame really since they are two of the best actress working today. Also, for those hoping for a ton of screen time for Theron will be disappointed, as she disappears after the first ten minutes and doesn’t appear again until the final act. That being said, Emily Blunt holds down the fort for being the main queen, and is also a bit held back. Her story is a good one if the writers decided to delve more into it, but instead it is just left underdeveloped and underwhelming at the end of all of it.

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Moreover, like its predecessor, The Huntsman: Winter’s War doesn’t standout too much. The story will probably feel a bit formulaic to some, and it does slow down – with the expectation of an action sequence – right up until the end.  Also, the big thing really, The Huntsman: Winter’s War feels like it ignored some of the events in Snow White and the Huntsman, one big particular one that involves Eric’s past. It’s fine if they wanted to rewrite things or treat this like the first film never happened, but this particular piece was the driving force behind Eric in Snow White, that it doesn’t really make sense that the film would rewrite this.

All in all, The Huntsman: Winter’s War has a great cast and some pretty cool visual effects. However, Emily Blunt’s Queen Freya story feels underwritten and Charlize Theron doesn’t have a ton of screen time. Fans will find things to enjoy, but overall The Huntsman: Winter’s War may be the end of these characters. Which is a bit of a shame, because this series had huge potential.

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The Huntsman: Winter’s War

3.5 out of 5

“The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” Review

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Dir: Francis Lawrence

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Woody Harrelson, Sam Claflin, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Elizabeth Banks, Lenny Kravitz, Stanley Tucci, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Liam Hemsworth and Donald Sutherland

Synopsis: Katniss Everdeen and Peeta Mellark become targets of the Capitol after their victory in the 74th Hunger Games sparks a rebellion in the Districts of Panem

 

*Reviewer Note: This will be a non-spoiler as always*

 

I’ll admit, I didn’t like The Hunger Games and I read the book (yes I know, “the book is always better” blah blah blah).  I had nothing against anybody in the movie but the movie to me was a bit on the boring side and some of the changes they made were a bit iffy to me.  But, that is the nature of Hollywood adaptations.  So saying Catching Fire is better than The Hunger Games for me isn’t really saying that much.  However, it is a better movie than the first and the performances this time around better too.

The movie starts off showing Katniss (Lawrence) hasn’t forgotten her time during The Games right before President Snow (Sutherland) shows up at her house and asks her if she’s ready to be in a real war and ready to lose everyone she cares about die.  Snow knows that Katniss risking her life to save her and Peeta (Hutcherson) lives has started a revolution that he doesn’t want.  Snow then puts forth The Quarter Quell.  The Quarter Quell puts all past victors from past Hunger Games into the games. Snow sees this as an opportunity to not only get rid of the other victors but also squash a rebellion, and even get rid of Katniss.

The first half sets up our past characters in Katniss, Peeta, Gale (Hemsworth), Haymitch (Harrelson), even Effie (Banks) and Cinna (Kravitz) although their characters have very small roles compared to the newcomers.  Speaking of them, our main new characters include the Capital’s favorite Finnick Odair (Claflin), Johanna Manson (Malone), and Beetee (Wright).  All have their moments but Claflin and Malone stick out and are the better of the new additions that also include the new Games Maker, Plutarch Heavensbee played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.  Hoffman nearly steals the show next to the always reliable Stanley Tucci playing energetic TV host Caesar Flickerman.

The movie does have a different feel to it and it’s because of the director change from Gary Ross to Francis Lawrence.  Lawrence’s world is cold and hopeless which fits how everyone from Katniss to the other victors feel about the situation.  However, one of the things that Lawrence keeps, that isn’t for the better, is the certain beat the movie has before it gets to the area.  It is structured that way in the book but the way Katniss and Peeta scope out the new competitors in the training session and their individual tests does feel like a “been there done that” feel.

Once we get to the area, that’s where things start to gear up.  The action starts right away (and shaky cam free in case you were wondering) and a bit more violent than then first movie but again it does make sense since the stakes are bigger this time around and it’s no longer “a game.” Even when the action is at a standstill the characters are being developed so we can care about them, which I know sounds weird but considering this is a movie about people killing each other left and right this kind of stuff matters.

Acting wise, Jennifer Lawrence is the star of the show.  Her performance ranges all over the place from heroic to vulnerable to scared and proves that his role is hers and hers alone.  Hutcherson has more to do this time around bringing empathy and being the mouth-piece in a sense. Sutherland’s President Snow is a little more menacing this time around.  He’s still the man behind the curtain but he does everything he can to make sure Katniss doesn’t survive.

All in all, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire is a better outing from the first movie along with the acting and action.  The set up for the next two movies, Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2, should get fans of the book and non-fans excited.  But again, for me, I wasn’t the biggest fan of the first movie but this was an improvement.

 

The Hunger Games: Catching Fire

3.5 out of 5