Skip to main content

You call yourself a huntsman?

The Huntsman: Winter’s War
(2016)

(SPOILERS) The first Huntsman movie, sorry, I mean Snow White movie featuring the Huntsman, was a reasonably watchable affair that did better business than most were expecting. Not Maleficent levels, but enough to warrant a sequel. The arising question then becomes, why put a sequel into production when it’s as broken backed in conception as The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and is virtually guaranteed returns that render giving it the greenlight questionable?


Well, I guess the answer is: you never do know. After all, that 300 prequel did surprisingly well, so even not having Kristen Stewart on board for Winter’s War didn’t necessarily spell doom for a would-be franchise… It’s a different matter if your plot is spinning around her absenteeism, however, smacking of covering for the lead in a TV show when they’re indisposed for a few weeks, but to the tune of about $100m more in price tag. Or like making a Pink Panther movie without Peter Sellers – no one would ever do such a foolish thing.  Winter’s War’s make-do quality is further emphasised by the piecemeal presence of other characters (Sam Claflin cameoing as King William, dead-alive Charlize Theron back again) adding to the sense that it isn’t a fully-fledged movie in its own right, no matter how much writers Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin attempt to fashion a distinct (sub-Frozen) plot about Ravenna’s sister Freya (Emily Blunt) and the Huntsmen she raised in a pit of lovelessness (yes, this is an origins story, because we all wanted to find out where Eric came from).


Blunt is fine. Theron is fine. The movie is better when both are onscreen at the same time, so hopefully this won’t be the only time they share it. Hemsworth, saddling himself with what I think is supposed to be a Scottish accent, but I can’t be entirely sure, proves, where the likes of Sam Worthington and Daniel Craig have before him, that bankability and star status in one franchise is no indication that any old bog-standard hero role will be infused with their nominal charisma. He’s dull, basically, and completely fails to spark any chemistry with Jessica Chastain (as Eric’s estranged wife Sara).


Which means the best thing here is, weirdly, big screen legend Rob Brydon, playing the returning Nick Frost’s dwarf cousin (could they not get any other dwarves back, or was it simply that Frost was the cheapest?) The dwarf make up is pretty basic – he looks more Klingon – but whether or not Brydon’s lines are improvised, he makes a fair fist of getting laughs from them, which may simply be down to his delivery.


One aspect of the picture that could be deemed a success, depending on your measure of what constitutes a compliment, is that this does rather recall ‘80s fantasy flicks, the questing likes of Krull and Willow, only more watchable. Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, graduating from visual effects and second unit to full director status, can’t muster anything amazing (some of the effects, nay most of them, are pretty rank), and falls back on distractingly choppy editing at times, despite it being evident that he has almost grasped a rhythm for the fights. There’s nothing that could be called laudable on any level, or even vaguely noteworthy, but The Huntsman: Winter’s War passes the time, is largely inoffensive (unless you get offended by jokes about ugly female dwarves, one of whom is Sheridan Smith, so not that ugly), and as unnecessary sequels go, there are a lot worse out there, even among summer 2016’s offerings.



Agree? Disagree? Mildly or vehemently? Let me know in the comments below.

Comments

  1. More watchable than Krull?? That would make this one of the most watchable movies evar!

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

She writes Twilight fan fiction.

Vampire Academy (2014)
My willingness to give writer Daniel Waters some slack on the grounds of early glories sometimes pays off (Sex and Death 101) and sometimes, as with this messy and indistinct Young Adult adaptation, it doesn’t. If Vampire Academy plods along as a less than innovative smart-mouthed Buffy rip-off that might be because, if you added vampires to Heathers, you would probably get something not so far from the world of Joss Whedon. Unfortunately inspiration is a low ebb throughout, not helped any by tepid direction from Daniel’s sometimes-reliable brother Mark and a couple of hopelessly plankish leads who do their best to dampen down any wit that occasionally attempts to surface.

I can only presume there’s a never-ending pile of Young Adult fiction poised for big screen failure, all of it comprising multi-novel storylines just begging for a moment in the Sun. Every time an adaptation crashes and burns (and the odds are that they will) another one rises, hydra-like, hoping…

Our very strength incites challenge. Challenge incites conflict. And conflict... breeds catastrophe.

The MCU Ranked Worst to Best

Why would I turn into a filing cabinet?

Captain Marvel (2019)
(SPOILERS) All superhero movies are formulaic to a greater or lesser degree. Mostly greater. The key to an actually great one – or just a pretty good one – is making that a virtue, rather than something you’re conscious of limiting the whole exercise. The irony of the last two stand-alone MCU pictures is that, while attempting to bring somewhat down-the-line progressive cachet to the series, they’ve delivered rather pedestrian results. Of course, that didn’t dim Black Panther’s cultural cachet (and what do I know, swathes of people also profess to loving it), and Captain Marvel has hit half a billion in its first few days – it seems that, unless you’re poor unloved Ant-Man, an easy $1bn is the new $700m for the MCU – but neither’s protagonist really made that all-important iconic impact.

My name is Dr. King Schultz, this is my valet, Django, and these are our horses, Fritz, and Tony.

Django Unchained (2012)
(MINOR SPOILERS) Since the painful misstep of Grindhouse/Death Proof, Quentin Tarantino has regained the higher ground like never before. Pulp Fiction, his previous commercial and critical peak, has been at very least equalled by the back-to-back hits of Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained. Having been underwhelmed by his post Pulp Fiction efforts (albeit, I admired his technical advances as a director in Kill Bill), I was pleasantly surprised by Inglourious Basterds. It was no work of genius (so not Pulp Fiction) by any means, but there was a gleeful irreverence in its treatment of history and even to the nominal heroic status of its titular protagonists. Tonally, it was a good fit for the director’s “cool” aesthetic. As a purveyor of postmodern pastiche, where the surface level is the subtext, in some ways he was operating at his zenith. Django Unchained is a retreat from that position, the director caught in the tug between his all-important aesthetic pr…

Stupid adult hands!

Shazam! (2019)
(SPOILERS) Shazam! is exactly the kind of movie I hoped it would be, funny, scary (for kids, at least), smart and delightfully dumb… until the final act. What takes place there isn’t a complete bummer, but right now, it does pretty much kill any interest I have in a sequel.

I have discovered the great ray that first brought life into the world.

Frankenstein (1931)
(SPOILERS) To what extent do Universal’s horror classics deserved to be labelled classics? They’re from the classical Hollywood period, certainly, but they aren’t unassailable titans that can’t be bettered – well unless you were Alex Kurtzman and Chris Morgan trying to fashion a Dark Universe with zero ingenuity. And except maybe for the sequel to the second feature in their lexicon. Frankenstein is revered for several classic scenes, boasts two mesmerising performances, and looks terrific thanks to Arthur Edeson’s cinematography, but there’s also sizeable streak of stodginess within its seventy minutes.

Can you float through the air when you smell a delicious pie?

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
(SPOILERS) Ironically, given the source material, think I probably fell into the category of many who weren't overly disposed to give this big screen Spider-Man a go on the grounds that it was an animation. After all, if it wasn’t "good enough" for live-action, why should I give it my time? Not even Phil Lord and Christopher Miller's pedigree wholly persuaded me; they'd had their stumble of late, although admittedly in that live-action arena. As such, it was only the near-unanimous critics' approval that swayed me, suggesting I'd have been missing out. They – not always the most reliable arbiters of such populist fare, which made the vote of confidence all the more notable – were right. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is not only a first-rate Spider-Man movie, it's a fresh, playful and (perhaps) surprisingly heartfelt origins story.

Only an idiot sees the simple beauty of life.

Forrest Gump (1994)
(SPOILERS) There was a time when I’d have made a case for, if not greatness, then Forrest Gump’s unjust dismissal from conversations regarding its merits. To an extent, I still would. Just not nearly so fervently. There’s simply too much going on in the picture to conclude that the manner in which it has generally been received is the end of the story. Tarantino, magnanimous in the face of Oscar defeat, wasn’t entirely wrong when he suggested to Robert Zemeckis that his was a, effectively, subversive movie. Its problem, however, is that it wants to have its cake and eat it.

Do not mention the Tiptoe Man ever again.

Glass (2019)
(SPOILERS) If nothing else, one has to admire M Night Shyamalan’s willingness to plough ahead regardless with his straight-faced storytelling, taking him into areas that encourage outright rejection or merciless ridicule, with all the concomitant charges of hubris. Reactions to Glass have been mixed at best, but mostly more characteristic of the period he plummeted from his must-see, twist-master pedestal (during the period of The Village and The Happening), which is to say quite scornful. And yet, this is very clearly the story he wanted to tell, so if he undercuts audience expectations and leaves them dissatisfied, it’s most definitely not a result of miscalculation on his part. For my part, while I’d been prepared for a disappointment on the basis of the critical response, I came away very much enjoying the movie, by and large.

Rejoice! The broken are the more evolved. Rejoice.

Split (2016)
(SPOILERS) M Night Shyamalan went from the toast of twist-based filmmaking to a one-trick pony to the object of abject ridicule in the space of only a couple of pictures: quite a feat. Along the way, I’ve managed to miss several of his pictures, including his last, The Visit, regarded as something of a re-locating of his footing in the low budget horror arena. Split continues that genre readjustment, another Blumhouse production, one that also manages to bridge the gap with the fare that made him famous. But it’s a thematically uneasy film, marrying shlock and serious subject matter in ways that don’t always quite gel.

Shyamalan has seized on a horror staple – nubile teenage girls in peril, prey to a psychotic antagonist – and, no doubt with the best intentions, attempted to warp it. But, in so doing, he has dragged in themes and threads from other, more meritable fare, with the consequence that, in the end, the conflicting positions rather subvert his attempts at subversion…