REVIEW: THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR

 

CAST

Chris Hemsworth (Thor)
Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road)
Jessica Chastain (The Martian)
Emily Blunt (Looper)
Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz)
Rob Brydon (Cinderella)
Sheridan Smith (Cilla)
Alexandra Roach (The Iron Lady)
Sam Claflin (The Quiet Ones)
Sophie Cookson (Kingsman)
Fred Tatasciore (Hulk Vs)
Liam Neeson (Batman Begins)

Long before her death, the evil sorceress, Queen Ravenna, (Charlize Theron) learns that her younger sister Freya (Emily Blunt) is not only engaged in an illicit affair with a noblemen Andrew (Colin Morgan), but is also carrying his child. Sometime after Freya gives birth to a baby girl, Freya discovers that Andrew has murdered their child and, and in a grief-fueled rage, Freya kills him with her long-dormant ice powers.

Freya abandons the kingdom and build herself a new kingdom in the north. She orders children to be abducted so as to train them to be fearsome huntsmen to conquer for her, and to harden their hearts so to spare them the pain of losing someone they love. Despite the training, two of her best huntsmen Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain), grow up only to fall in love with each other, secretly marry and plan to escape together. However Freya discovers their secrets. She confronts them and creates a massive ice wall to separate them before forcing Eric to watch Sara be killed by her fellow huntsmen. Eric then was cast out and left to die, only to somehow survive.

Seven years later, and after Ravenna’s death, Queen Snow White falls ill after hearing Ravenna’s Magic Mirror calling her. Because of its dark magic, she ordered it to be taken to the Sanctuary, the magical place that sheltered Snow White during the events leading to Ravenna’s death, so that the mirror’s magic can be forever contained there. Snow White’s husband, William, informs Eric that the soldiers tasked with carrying the Mirror went missing while en route to the Sanctuary. Eric is aware that Freya has been secretly observing their conversation through a mask that projects her consciousness in the form of a magically animated Snowy owl, and he destroys it. Knowing the magic of the mirror can make Freya even stronger, Eric agrees to investigate, but reluctantly allows Snow White’s dwarf ally Nion (Nick Frost) and his half-brother Gryff (Rob Brydon) to come along.

While en route to the last known location of the soldiers, the trio are attacked by a number of Freya’s huntsmen, but are rescued by Sara. Sara reveals that she had been imprisoned by Freya the entire time, only to escape recently. Sara believes she saw Eric running away rather than fighting to get to her, and feels betrayed. Eric tries to convince her that it was a vision conjured by Freya, since he himself saw Sara being murdered. He told Sara he never stopped loving her, however Sara is not convinced. Eventually Sara agrees to work with Eric and the dwarves only to thwart Freya.

Sometime later, the quartet is ensnared in a trap laid out by female dwarves Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith) and Doreena (Alexandra Roach). They convince the female dwarves to help find the Mirror, and the female dwarves lead them to the goblins, whom the female dwarves suspected of taking the mirror. The party fight off the goblins to get to the Mirror, and Eric sacrifices himself to buy time for the party to escape with the mirror. Sara mourns his apparent death, only to see Eric somehow survived. Eric reveals that he had never taken off a medallion Sara gave him as a token of her love.

With the Mirror, the party is about to reach the Sanctuary, only to be ambushed by Freya and her huntsmen. Freya reveals Sara is loyal to Freya all along, and Sara has been using them to find the Mirror. In the ensuing chaos, Nion and Doreena are turned into ice statues, and Sara fires an arrow into Eric’s chest by Freya’s order. Freya departs with the Magic Mirror, but she is unaware that Sara intentionally shot the arrow at the medallion she gave Eric, thus saving him and revealing Sara’s true feelings.

Back in her palace up north, Freya approaches the mirror and asks who is the fairest of them all. The mirror replies by forming a golden liquid, eventually transforming into Ravenna. Ravenna reveals that her spirit is trapped and becomes one with the mirror after Snow White vanquished her, but she is now freed by Freya. Ravenna proceeds to usurp Freya’s rule by preparing Freya’s huntsmen to exact revenge on Snow White’s kingdom, without consulting Freya.

Meanwhile, Eric has infiltrated the ice palace with help of Gryff and Bromwyn. He attempts to assassinate Freya, only to be stopped by Ravenna. When Freya realizes that Sara hadn’t actually killed Eric, she reluctantly sentences them both to death because of Ravenna’s manipulation. However, Eric is able to convince a few huntsmen to rebel, claiming the love of brethren. Ravenna begins to kill the huntsmen. Freya, realizing that she loves her huntsmen, protects them with an ice wall and separating them from the sisters. As Eric, Sara and the rebelling huntsmen climb over the wall to fight Ravenna and Freya, the two sisters argue over the icy kingdom. Freya discovers that Ravenna ultimately caused the death of Freya’s child, so Freya finally turns against her sister. Freya is no match for Ravenna and is stabbed, but with her remaining strength Freya freezes the magic mirror. Eric shatters the mirror, thus destroying Ravenna. As Freya dies from her wounds, she smiles at the sight of a vision of her old loving self, and gladly witnessing Eric and Sara together.

With Freya’s death, all those who had been imprisoned by Freya’s magic are now free, including Nion and Doreena. Meanwhile, a mysterious golden bird flies overhead, hinting that Ravenna’s spirit may still live.

It’s a film involving magic, dwarves, Goblins, an ice kingdom and sisterly rivalry! I found the story to be reasonably engaging, and the action sequences to be exciting. The visual effects are  quite amazing (especially when the Freya character unleashes her icy powers). While it’s certainly not a sophisticated story, it is good fun – and ought to be judged in those terms (as a visual spectacle and action fantasy film).

 

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REVIEW: SNOW WHITE & THE HUNTSMAN

 

CAST

Kristen Stewart (Twilight)
Chris Hemsworth (Thor)
Charlize Theron (Hancock)
Sam Clafin (The Quiet Ones)
Sam Spruell (The Hurt Locker)
Ian McShane (Hercules)
Bob Hoskins (Hollywoodland)
Ray Winstone (The Departed)
Nick Frost (Hot Fuzz)
Eddie Marsan (Sherlock Holmes)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Johnny Harris (Atonement)
Vincent Regan (300)
Lily Cole (The Moth Diaries)

While admiring a rose blooming in the winter, Queen Eleanor of the Kingdom of Tabor pricks her finger on one of its thorns. Three drops of blood fall onto the snow-covered ground, and she wishes for a daughter as white as the snow, with lips as red as the blood, hair as black as a raven’s wings and a heart as strong and defiant as the rose. Queen Eleanor gives birth to her daughter Snow White, but soon after falls ill and dies. After her death, Snow White’s father, King Magnus, and his army battle an invading Dark Army of demonic glass soldiers. Upon rescuing their prisoner Ravenna, he becomes enchanted with her beauty and marries her.

Ravenna, who is in fact a powerful sorceress and the Dark Army’s master, kills Magnus on their wedding night. On the night, Magnus, enchanted, throws Ravenna into the bed and proceeds to make love. Ravenna confesses there was a king much like Magnus that spoiled her. During foreplay, she declares she cannot be a weak queen and kills Magnus. Snow White’s childhood friend William and his father Duke Hammond escape the castle but are unable to rescue her, and she is captured by Ravenna’s brother Finn, and locked away in the north tower of the castle for many years.

Tabor is ruined under Queen Ravenna’s rule as she periodically drains the youth from the kingdom’s young women in order to maintain a spell cast over her as a child by her mother which allows her to keep her youthful beauty. When Snow White comes of age, Queen Ravenna learns from her Magic Mirror, in the form of a golden, reflective liquid shaped like a man, that her stepdaughter Snow White is destined to destroy her unless Queen Ravenna consumes the young girl’s heart, which will make her truly immortal. Queen Ravenna orders Finn to bring her Snow White’s heart, but she escapes into the Dark Forest, where Ravenna has no power. Queen Ravenna makes a bargain with Eric the Huntsman, a widower and drunkard, to capture Snow White, promising to bring his wife back to life in exchange. The Huntsman tracks down Snow White, but when Finn reveals that Queen Ravenna does not actually have the power to do what she promised, the Huntsman fights him and his men while Snow White runs away. When the Huntsman catches up with her, she promises him gold if he will escort her to Duke Hammond’s castle. Meanwhile, Finn gathers another band of men to find her, and Duke Hammond and his son William learn that she is alive. William leaves the castle on his own to find her, joining Finn’s band as a bowman.

The Huntsman and Snow White leave the Dark Forest, where she saves his life by charming a huge troll that attacks them. They make their way to a fishing village populated by women who have disfigured themselves to save their own lives, becoming useless to Queen Ravenna. While there, the Huntsman learns Snow White’s true identity, and initially leaves her in the care of the women. He soon returns when he sees the village being burned down by Finn’s men. Snow White and the Huntsman evade them and eventually meet a band of eight dwarves named Beith, Muir, Quert, Coll, Duir, Gort, Nion, and Gus. The blind Muir perceives that Snow White is the daughter of the former king, and the only person who can defeat Ravenna and end her reign.

As they travel through a fairy sanctuary, the group is attacked by Finn and his men. The Huntsman battles Finn and kills him, and William reveals himself and helps defeat Finn’s men. However, Gus is killed when he sacrifices himself to take an arrow meant for Snow White. William joins the group which continues the journey to Hammond’s castle.

Halfway to Duke Hammond’s castle, Queen Ravenna disguises herself as William and tempts Snow White into eating a poisoned apple, but is forced to flee when the Huntsman and William discover her. William kisses Snow White, whom he believes to be dead. She is taken to Hammond’s castle. As she lies in repose, the Huntsman professes his regret for not saving Snow White, who reminds him of his late wife, Sara, and he kisses her, breaking the spell. She awakens and walks into the courtyard, and rallies the Duke’s army to mount a siege against Queen Ravenna.

The dwarves infiltrate the castle through the sewers and open the gates, allowing the Duke’s army inside. Snow White confronts Queen Ravenna, but is overpowered. Queen Ravenna is about to kill Snow White and consume her heart, but Snow White uses a move the Huntsman taught her and seemingly kills Queen Ravenna, and Duke Hammond’s army is victorious. With Queen Ravenna defeated and dead, the kingdom once again enjoys peace and harmony as Snow White is crowned Queen and she and the Huntsman exchange looks before it cuts to chants of “Hail to the queen!”

This film is not going to win many awards, nor will it be a favorite of the year, but it is entirely a good movie. Stunning visual effects, many great landscape shots, good acting, great action, and a believable storyline. This is not the Disney film you are used to, but a much grittier and more mature take on the original tale.