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

Popular posts from this blog

Nanobots aren’t just for Christmas.

No Time to Die (2021) (SPOILERS) You know a Bond movie is in trouble when it resorts to wholesale appropriation of lines and even the theme song from another in order to “boost” its emotional heft. That No Time to Die – which previewed its own title song a year and a half before its release to resoundingly underwhelmed response, Grammys aside – goes there is a damning indictment of its ability to eke out such audience investment in Daniel Craig’s final outing as James (less so as 007). As with Spectre , the first half of No Time to Die is, on the whole, more than decent Bond fare, before it once again gets bogged down in the quest for substance and depth from a character who, regardless of how dapper his gear is, resolutely resists such outfitting.

Maybe the dingo ate your baby.

Seinfeld 2.9: The Stranded The Premise George and Elaine are stranded at a party in Long Island, with a disgruntled hostess.

Big things have small beginnings.

Prometheus (2012) Post- Gladiator , Ridley Scott opted for an “All work and no pondering” approach to film making. The result has been the completion of as many movies since the turn of the Millennium as he directed in the previous twenty years. Now well into his seventies, he has experienced the most sustained period of success of his career.  For me, it’s also been easily the least-interesting period. All of them entirely competently made, but all displaying the machine-tooled approach that was previously more associated with his brother.

I’m giving you a choice. Either put on these glasses or start eating that trash can.

They Live * (1988) (SPOILERS) Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of They Live – I was a big fan of most things Carpenter at the time of its release – but the manner in which its reputation as a prophecy of (or insight into) “the way things are” has grown is a touch out of proportion with the picture’s relatively modest merits. Indeed, its feting rests almost entirely on the admittedly bravura sequence in which WWF-star-turned-movie-actor Roddy Piper, under the influence of a pair of sunglasses, first witnesses the pervasive influence of aliens among us who are sucking mankind dry. That, and the ludicrously genius sequence in which Roddy, full of transformative fervour, attempts to convince Keith David to don said sunglasses, for his own good. They Live should definitely be viewed by all, for their own good, but it’s only fair to point out that it doesn’t have the consistency of John Carpenter at his very, very best. Nada : I have come here to chew bubblegum and kick a

Ladies and gentlemen, this could be a cultural misunderstanding.

Mars Attacks! (1996) (SPOILERS) Ak. Akk-akk! Tim Burton’s gleefully ghoulish sci-fi was his first real taste of failure. Sure, there was Ed Wood , but that was cheap, critics loved it, and it won Oscars. Mars Attacks! was BIG, though, expected to do boffo business, and like more than a few other idiosyncratic spectaculars of the 1990s ( Last Action Hero , Hudson Hawk ) it bombed BIG. The effect on Burton was noticeable. He retreated into bankable propositions (the creative and critical nadir perhaps being Planet of the Apes , although I’d rate it much higher than the likes of Alice in Wonderland and Dumbo ) and put the brakes on his undisciplined goth energy. Something was lost. Mars Attacks! is far from entirely successful, but it finds the director let loose with his own playset and sensibility intact, apparently given the licence to do what he will.

He tasks me. He tasks me, and I shall have him.

Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (1982) (SPOILERS) I don’t love Star Trek , but I do love Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan . That probably isn’t just me, but a common refrain of many a non-devotee of the series. Although, it used to apply to The Voyage Home (the funny one, with the whales, the Star Trek even the target audience for Three Men and a Baby could enjoy). Unfortunately, its high regard has also become the desperate, self-destructive, song-and-verse, be-all-and-end-all of the overlords of the franchise itself, in whichever iteration, it seems. This is understandable to an extent, as Khan is that rare movie sequel made to transcendent effect on almost every level, and one that stands the test of time every bit as well (better, even) as when it was first unveiled.

It's something trying to get out.

The Owl Service (1969-70) I may have caught a glimpse of Channel 4’s repeat of  The Owl Service  in 1987, but not enough to stick in the mind. My formative experience was Alan Garner’s novel, which was read several years earlier during English lessons. Garner’s tapestry of magical-mythical storytelling had an impact, with its possession theme and blending of legend with the here and now. Garner depicts a Britain where past and present are mutable, and where there is no safety net of objective reality; life becomes a strange waking dream. His fantasy landscapes are both attractive and disturbing; the uncanny reaching out from the corners of the attic.  But I have to admit that the themes of class and discrimination went virtually unnoticed in the wake of such high weirdness. The other Garner books I read saw young protagonists transported to fantasy realms. The resonance of  The Owl Service  came from the fragmenting of the rural normal. When the author notes that he neve

Isn’t sugar better than vinegar?

Femme Fatale (2002) (SPOILERS) Some have attempted to rescue Femme Fatale from the dumpster of critical rejection and audience indifference with the claim that it’s De Palma’s last great movie. It isn’t that by a long shot, but it might rank as the last truly unfettered display of his obsessions and sensibilities, complete with a ludicrous twist – so ludicrous, it’s either a stroke of genius or mile-long pile up.

Beer is for breakfast around here. Drink or begone.

Cocktail (1988) (SPOILERS) When Tarantino claims the 1980s (and 1950s) as the worst movie decade, I’m inclined to invite him to shut his butt down. But should he then flourish Cocktail as Exhibit A, I’d be forced to admit he has a point. Cocktail is a horrifying, malignant piece of dreck, a testament to the efficacy of persuasive star power on a blithely rapt and undiscerning audience. Not only is it morally vacuous, it’s dramatically inert. And it relies on Tom’s toothy charms to a degree that would have any sensitive soul rushed to the A&E suffering from toxic shock (Tom’s most recently displayed toothy charms will likely have even his staunchest devotees less than sure of themselves, however, as he metamorphoses into your favourite grandma). And it was a huge box office hit.

Twenty dwarves took turns doing handstands on the carpet.

Bugsy (1991) (SPOILERS) Bugsy is very much a Warren Beatty vanity project (aren’t they all, even the ones that don’t seem that way on the surface?), to the extent of his playing a title character a decade and a half younger than him. As such, it makes sense that producer Warren’s choice of director wouldn’t be inclined to overshadow star Warren, but the effect is to end up with a movie that, for all its considerable merits (including a script from James Toback chock full of incident), never really feels quite focussed, that it’s destined to lead anywhere, even if we know where it’s going.