Friday, April 22, 2016
The Huntsman: Winter's War 
CNS/USCCB (J. McAleer) review
ChicagoTribune (K. Walsh) review
RogerEbert.com (C. Lemire) review
AVClub (J. Hassenger) review
The Huntsman: Winter's War  (directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan screenplay by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin characters by Evan Daugherty) is a SPIN-OFF (BOTH prequel AND sequel to) Snow White and the Huntsman  MINUS Snow White (which means minus Kristen Stewart who had played her in the first movie), AND feels like a cross of The Lord of the Rings [2001-3] / Game of Thrones [2011-16] and "a more grown-up" and more problematically darker version of Frozen . So there :-) That's essentially the movie in a nut-shell;-)
Now a question could be asked: WHY? Why make a "spin-off" of "Snow White" and NOT INCLUDE "Snow White"? At first look (or even second or third looks) it seems kinda odd. But for at least several decades now, it has been clear that Fans "enchanted" with _the worlds_ (or comic book speak "universes") created by writers of fairy tales / fantasy fiction have _generally_ happily greeted prequels, sequels and spin-offs from previously successful stories.
One thinks here of "Wicked" the novel (1995) [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] by Gregory Maguire [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] and subsequent highly successful stage musical [wikip] [Amzn-STr] [GR] [WCat] by Stephan Schwarz [wikip] [Amzn] and Winnie Holzman [wikip] [GR] [WCat] which sought to tell the back-story of the "Wicked Witch of the West" from The Wizard of Oz . Indeed, Maguire proceeded to write an entire series of books [wikip] [GR] [WCat] [Amzn] telling the stories of a fair number of characters from the original story.
Consider then the various prequels, sequels, spin-offs both officially sanctioned and not of J.R.R. Tolkien (Lord of the Rings), Ian Flemming (James Bond), Gene Roddenberry (Star Trek), George Lukas (Star Wars), to say nothing of the "Universes" owned/controlled by Marvel and DC Comics, and the idea of creating a movie about "The Huntsman" a character actually _invented_ for the film Snow White and the Huntsman  (itself a rather dark post LOTR / "Twilight Saga" re-imagination of the traditional Central European fairy tale of Snow White) wouldn't seem _necessarily_ "so odd" after all.
Yet, who then is "The Huntsman" (given the name Eric in this film and played by Chris Hemsworth)?
The current film tries to give him a back-story. But he's basically Hugh Jackman's "Wolverine" character of the Marvel Comics' X-Men franchise (only played here by similarly hunky Chris Hemsworth). He's presented in the current film as originally a "medieval Ranger / Special Forces-like" Warrior, abducted as a child (kinda like in the children taken by the Turks as tribute in Dracula Untold ), and forced then to serve a Frost Queen named Freya (played here by Emily Blunt), the jilted / angry / cold (note that in Spanish: "fría" means "cold") younger sister of Snow White's later Evil Step-Mother (named in this series Ravenna and played by Charlize Theron).
Why did Freya (an obvious if more Evil or at least far more "messed-up" knock-off of Elsa from Frozen ) become a "Frost Queen"? Well, when young, she had a _really bad experience_ with Love. Hence, she became _wickedly_ "Cold" and spent most of the current film having abducted little children brought to her and teaching them (1) there is NO SUCH A THING AS LOVE, and (2) it's best to just put their energy into dominating / killing people and conquering lands FOR HER so that her "Frost Kingdom" could expand. (Gotta put all that frustrated / repressed energy somewhere, right? ;-)
Well the young, hunky "Huntsman" Eric does have a love named Sara (played by Jessica Chastain) also once a child abducted for Queen Freya and trained as a Medieval Ranger-like Special Forces Warrior. Together the two young, fit (!), 20-somethings would like to make a-life-of-it together, but of course the Frost Queen "steps in the way."
Much then ensues ... including a seven year separation where both Eric ad Sera thought that the Other was either dead (or a jerk). And it turns out that the previous film Snow White and the Huntsman  would have taken place somewhere in the middle of that seven year separation (when Eric would have encountered Snow White as a something of a loner, still mourning for the loss of his great love Sara ...)
Now why would Freya, who started life being far warmer and indeed one who experienced Love (if lost) end up so Cold? Of course, her Evil or again, very "messed-up" older Sister had to have something to do with it ... and all that has to play-out as well.
Readers, this is not a terrible movie, and indeed both Emily Blunt and especially Charlize Theron get to _really enjoy_ playing terrible (Evil or at least very, very messed-up) characters. But many / most Viewers may find the characters here derivative of better drawn / better conceived characters elsewhere.
As such, many Viewers may come to feel that the movie drags and look forward to its end. In the end, the "world" or "universe" created by the film-makers in these "Snow White and the Huntsman" films may be too Dark, one that _not many_ Viewers would particularly enjoy ... Instead, the "world" of Elsa of Frozen  is simply happier. Hence I would assume that far more people (even of teen / young adult age) would prefer Disney's conception in Frozen  to the current film here.
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