Friday, April 22, 2016

The Huntsman: Winter's War Review

In the last five years or so, Hollywood has been on this kick of doing live-action remakes of Disney's animated classics. Yes, Disney instigated this in 2010 with Alice in Wonderland, but they aren't the only ones doing it. In fact, in 2012 we got two live-action remakes of Snow White, neither of them by Disney. One of those was laughably bad while the other one I actually enjoyed for the most part. I'm not here to re-review Snow White and the Huntsman, but yes. That's the one I liked. Surprisingly a lot of people hated that movie, but I was definitely not on that bandwagon. Because a lot of people's hatred of that movie, not many people were super excited for The Huntsman: Winter's War. I was. I thought the trailers were great. I love the cast. I thought the premise was intriguing. The movie looked beautiful. I was excited. When the reviews started trickling out and was laughably bad, I chose to ignore them. Most people hated the first, so of course they're going to hate this one. Despite everything, I still went in hoping that I would be one of the few to give this a positive review. Because of all this, I honestly feel like I just got punched in the face. The Huntsman: Winter's War is a complete mess.

Snow White and the Huntsman was a darker spin on the Snow White fairy tale that I thought really worked out. Kristen Stewart sold it as a dark and depressed Snow White who had been locked up in a castle for most of her life. Charlize Theron was absolutely amazing as the Evil Queen. Chris Hemsworth was a fun and enjoyable side character along for the ride. The ending was a mess, but for the most part I thought they did a great job. It was also originally a planned trilogy, which I thought was an interesting idea. The first did well enough financially to justify a sequel, but there were a lot of production issues with it. A big one was Kristen Stewart having an affair with the director. Coincidence that neither of them are back? Probably not. Also I hear that Kristen Stewart wanted no part of this, so how do you do a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman when your Snow White doesn't want to be there? Clever answer! Do a side story with the Evil Queen and the Huntsman, who were the two best parts of that movie anyways. Let's call it The Huntsman, add the subtitle Winter's War to it, and thrown in Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain to the mix and we've got ourselves a dang good setup for the next movie. I'm all for it!

But is this a sequel, a prequel, or a spin-off? I was under the impression that this was a prequel. I thought they were going to tell the story before the story of how the Evil Queen became the Evil Queen and how the Huntsman essentially became her henchman. Sure, if you're going that route you could probably guess what was going to happen to Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain's characters, but that sounded interesting. It is possible to make a good prequel, even though Star Wars and The Lord of the Rings both failed with their movie prequels. But that's not what this is. The answer to the question, "is this a sequel, a prequel, or a spin-off?" is... yes. All of it. This is kind of a prequel, a sequel, and a spin-off. All at the same time. That's a big part of the problem here. The movie doesn't really know what it wants to be and thus the plot is all over the place. We start off as a prequel. After telling some backstory, we suddenly jump several years into the future and are in the era where Snow White is queen and the Evil Queen wants revenge on Snow White. That's a sequel. But we also spend most of the movie on an adventure with the Huntsman, his sort-of wife, and a few male and female dwarfs. Spin-off.

Let's start with the prequel part of this movie. This was bad. The overall story here is some drama between two sisters. Anna and Elsa are good friends before Elsa realizes she has powers that her parents want her to suppress, causing Elsa to dive into a state of depression and insecurity where she shuts Anna out. Oh wait, back up. Wrong movie. Evil Anna is a good person initially who starts to be seduced by an evil gold ring... er, evil gold mirror that looks more like a giant symbol from a drum set than a mirror, but whatever. She wants to be the fairest in the land and when the demon inside the mirror tells her that her sister Elsa will have a daughter prettier than her, well... uh.... she does bad things that causes Elsa to feel betrayed and hurt, which in turn brings out her magical ice powers. Elsa becomes Evil Elsa, turns everything into a winter wonderland, and creates her own kingdom where she decides to raise an army of children to be warriors while banning love. Because, you know, she got betrayed by her sister so obviously that means love is a thing of fiction and no one should even be allowed to try because it will never work.

Come on. Give me a break. This is the dumbest plot device to go with. The second that happens, you know what is naturally going to happen and how this whole movie is going to turn out. Chris Hemworth and Jessica Chastain fall madly in love. No, correction. They don't fall. They just are randomly madly in love. I mean, you can't really blame them. On the one hand, you have a guy that was named the sexiest man alive and on the other hand you have a girl that probably could be named the sexiest woman alive. Both of them are among my favorite people in the acting business. So naturally it makes sense for them to fall madly in love the second they lay eyes on each other. But we could've given them some character progression and built up to that. Instead we just need to show to love birds making out in a forbidden romance shortly after we hear Evil Elsa banning love. You know what's going to happen with this. And you're absolutely right. But it's not done very well. Instead we have Liam Neeson as narrator exposition the heck out of the story so we can rush through all the drama that should've been it's own movie and boom. We suddenly jump seven years into the future where all of the stuff that happened in Snow White and the Huntsman is now in the past.

Whoa! Slow it down there movie! The idea behind this is not a bad one, but the execution is poorly done. Speaking of the idea behind this, I hope you've figured out that this movie is essential dark Frozen meets Snow White without Snow White. Evil Anna is actually named Ravenna and Evil Elsa is actually named Freya. But Ravenna and Freya aren't as fun to say. I like Evil Anna and Evil Elsa. After all, this was partially inspired by Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen just like Frozen was, so it obviously fits. Anyways, after speeding through that intro in a very rocky, unstable manner, the movie takes my advice and slows down. But in this case this was a bad idea. The whole middle of this movie is a complete drag. After an incredibly stupid twist, which had me laughing, the movie becomes a quest to find the mirror featuring Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastian, and a handful of annoying dwarfs that had no purpose other than try to provide some comedic relief which mostly failed. And it was boring. Outside a few fun action sequences, we were mostly plagued with an awful script that had me literally laughing out loud in some places where I shouldn't have been laughing.

Remember that this is a movie that I was dying to defend. I wanted to be the one person who enjoyed this and gave it a positive review. But I have no idea what the heck happened here. This was an ugly mess. Was this the directors fault? Very possible. Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is the director here and this is his first time directing. His previous work was as the visual effects supervisor for, you guessed it, Snow White and the Huntsman. It's like when they decided to get the director of that film, they picked a name out of a hat from their existing crew and the visual effects supervisor was the lucky winner. I'm sorry, but maybe he should just stay a visual effects supervisor because the visual effects in this movie as well as Snow White and the Huntsman are absolutely phenomenal. It's also possible that the writing is to blame with this movie. The script is a mess. The dialogue is cheesy. The jokes mostly fall flat. I was laughing, but not where I was supposed to be laughing. The overall story is all over the place. Yes, there's some good ideas hidden in here that could've made for a great movie, but when the writing is bad, it's hard for the rest of the crew, especially the director and actors, to turn this into a good movie.

Speaking of acting, let's talk about the acting because we have an all-star cast full of people who either have won an Oscar, have been nominated for an Oscar, or are due for an Oscar nomination in the not-so-distant future. When I heard they were adding Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt to this cast, I became ecstatic. We now had a trio of my favorite actresses, which Charlize Theron being the third. Sadly, though, Jessica Chastain's character was so poorly written that she was essentially a waste and Emily Blunt shockingly gave possibly the worst performance of her career. Evil Elsa had potential to be a great character, but Emily Blunt just completely dropped the ball, which was sad. Jessica Chastain at least did the best with what she was given. Charlize Theron is somehow back in this movie after dying in the first one. That made no sense. I mean, they explained it, but it still made no sense. She also wasn't in for very long, which was another big fault for this movie because when she was in the movie, she owned every scene. Another phenomenal performance from her. Finally, I think Chris Hemsworth had a ton of fun with his character. This was the type of performance where I felt he knew he was in a bad movie, but he decided that he was going to have a blast playing this character anyways. Thus I had fun watching him, even though that performance was nothing to write home about.

Is there any redeemable aspects to this movie? Yes. As I've stated, the visual effects in the movie were phenomenal. I really was blown away by this world we were in. It was so pretty. I also loved the score. That was done very well. But also, I actually do believe that the third act was pretty entertaining. After a dismal first act and a boring and laughable second act, I found myself having a lot of fun with the third act. Most of this is due to the fact that Charlize Theron shows up and owns the movie. If this movie had been more focused and had more of Charlize Theron in it, I may have given this movie pass. As is, Charlize Theron alone convinced me to grade this a point or two higher than I was initially planning. Yes, the very, very end leaves something to be desired for. Remember when I said that given the premise of the movie, you could guess how this is going to end? Exactly. They had to tie it up with a nice, little ribbon, painting a perfect fairy tale ending that you could see from a mile or two away. This almost completely diminished the entire third act, but I'm not going to go that far because I still want to give credit where credit is due and some of it is due. But not enough of it.

In the end, I really did want to come out of this movie with a positive feeling. I was excited for the movie. I was ignoring the reviews. I wanted to give this praise. I even defended this movie when some of my friends said it looked terrible. But now I'm eating my words because after seeing the movie, I will sadly be joining the bandwagon of people hating on this because it was just a mess overall. If they wanted to do a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, then go ahead. If they would rather try a prequel, then for it. If they wanted to test Chris Hemsworth's drawing power and do a straight-up spin-off with his character, then that's great. But I feel they didn't quite know what they wanted to do and so they tried to do all three and ultimately failed in every category. There were some great ideas present here. This could've worked out. If they would've focused the story, had a good script, and had a good director on board to pull it all together, this could've worked. They had the cast. They had the effects. They had the world. They had a great opportunity. But they just dropped the ball completely here. No, this isn't cringe-worthy. I didn't feel like watching it was a chore. And yes, there were some good scenes here and there. But overall I feel this movie is a mess and thus my grade for The Huntsman: Winter's War will be a 5/10.

No comments:

Post a Comment