IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 114 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Long before the evil Queen Ravenna was thought vanquished by Snow White, she betrayed her good sister Freya with a truly evil act, freezing Freya’s heart to love and unleashing in her an icy power she never knew she possessed. Retreating to a kingdom far to the north, Freya raised an army of Huntsmen as her protectors, with the only rule that no two of them should ever fall in love. However, two of them – Eric and Sara – broke that rule, and were cruelly punished. Seven years later, and with Ravenna supposedly dead, Freya is conquering kingdom after kingdom, and orders some of her men to bring the Magic Mirror to her. Eric is asked to bring it back….
While it generally got poor reviews, I got a lot of enjoyment out of Snow White And The Huntsman [it sure beat that other Snow White film that came out last year]. And I’m now going to say that I got a fair amount of enjoyment out of The Huntsman too. It too appears to be getting chiefly negative reviews, though we’re not afraid to go against the grain here on HCF if one of us feels that the overriding opinion on a film is different to their own. We all have different taste. For my money, The Huntsman provided much more entertainment than Batman Vs Superman: Dawn Of Justice, which is probably a fairly controversial view considering that, while opinion as to the quality of the latter film seems to be split reasonably equally, I don’t think that The Huntsman has received a wholly positive review yet. This review certainly won’t be that; The Huntsman has a lot of flaws and is overall rather misconceived. Overall though it really isn’t that bad. In an ideal world, it would be getting a lot more attention than Zach Snyder’s horribly self-important, gloomy, incoherent picture, but then we live in a world where superheroes are strangling the world of commercial American motion pictures and popular culture itself. Maybe the filmmakers should have found a way to put a Marvel or DC superhero in the film. At least the relative lack of interest in The Huntsman means that I probably won’t get lots of criticism for liking it.
Now I did say that there are some serious issues with this film, a film whose script is at times so poor as to call Freya’s army “huntsmen” when there are women in said army as well as men. This perhaps isn’t surprising when you consider that it was originally conceived as a sequel to Snow White And The Huntsman which would feature Snow White, but then metamorphosised into a film which is both a prequel and a sequel, though far more the latter [if only Frank Darabont hadn’t walked; we may really have had something]….and one which doesn’t have Snow White in it at all aside from a shot of the back of her head. Her absence is felt throughout, what with people often mentioning her and even her husband turning up, in an especially forced moment, to speak on her behalf. It also doesn’t help that we’re basically being asked to root for land, a kingdom with no visible person to lead or even populate it.
Something that I was pleasantly surprised with was how, right from the offset, the fairly dark tone for the first film was mentioned, with a really rather shocking moment when we see smoke rising from the cradle of Freya’s child and it seems that the child’s father has at least assisted in the killing. Many of the scenes featuring Ravenna in the first film had a distinctly macabre aspect and this is continued here, though of course the main villain in this film isn’t Ravenna,, who soon disappears from the story because she’s been killed by Snow White, but Freya, who, before you can say “let it go”, is transformed into a sorceress who can freeze things by her sister’s dreadful act, and takes her place. She kidnaps and enslaves children to turn into soldiers [no, this film isn’t really kid’s stuff either], but two of them grow up to fall in love. All this would be pretty compelling if it wasn’t so rushed, Liam Neeson’s narration alternating between telling us what we can already make out and peppering over gaps caused partly by the budget not being large enough [despite the success of Snow White And The Huntsman] to give us big scenes of battle and conquest.
However, once the scene switches to seven years later, the movie does find its stride a bit more, while also finding the time to give us a bit of light relief involving four dwarf characters, though with only Nick Frost returning from the first movie. Rob Brydon’s character insulting female dwarves provides some cheap chuckles, though some mild swearing seems out of place. There’s plenty of action though, including an encounter with some quite unusual looking Goblins [though of course it would have been better had they been actual human performers rather than CGI], though Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is obviously one of those directors who doesn’t feel that the audience deserves to see fight scenes properly. Amidst all the eye-hurting shakycam, I could just make out Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain, or their stunt doubles, doing some really cool moves and even stunts, but why should it be such as struggle to see such stuff? I reckon readers are probably sick and tired of me whinging about shakycam and frantic editing, but nor does it seem to be going away any time soon. When stuff is happening onscreen, I want to be able to see it and not feel sick and get sore eyes. I don’t think that’s unreasonable.
The two hour running time does fly by in this film and there is a nice feel to some scenes though Nicolas-Troyan doesn’t really exhibit the occasional visual flair demonstrated by his predecessor Rupert Sanders, and the scenes in the enchanted forest, for instance, don’t have the same magical vibe as before. The plentiful CGI is better than you may have been led to believe [though that substance that emits from the mirror doesn’t look too impressive this time round, and now I think about it the script seems a bit confused about the actual mirror, which we are told shows the reflection of a person’s true self but which later has one of the major characters stepping out of it], and Colleen Atwood’s costumes are again magnificent. It’s really the screenplay, partly written by the co-writer of several DTV Disney flicks, that lets things down most, as it cribs from several popular fantasy films of recent years [though not as much from Frozen as you may have been led to believe] without providing much that is new. The emotional drama in the final reel would have worked better if the two evil queens had had more scenes together earlier on the film, and it’s hard to care that much about the fraught relationship between two sisters when both are mostly, though not entirely, evil.
Hemsworth projects considerable easy going charm and Chastain’s warrior woman is still allowed to have some vulnerability and…my God….even be rescued by Hemsworth at one point, though their Scottish accents are extremely inconsistent, so much so that they may as well have spoken in their native accents. This is a fantasy movie after all. Charlize Theron is only in the opening and closing sections so it’s the wondrous Emily Blunt who is given the chance to shine, and that she certainly does, playing a variant on a certain very similar role essayed by Tilda Swinton in 2005 but adding some inner pain and sadness, and certainly showing the mediocrity of, say, Angelina Jolie in another similar part which clearly influenced the writing of her character, though I’m not sure that roles of this kind truly bring out the best in her. Overall the performances [even Nick Frost is pleasing and fun] go a long way towards making The Huntsman as good as it is. James Newton Howard provides a fine score that really helps parts of the movie and for me improves on his work in the first picture. Well, I did spend rather more time criticising The Huntsman than I perhaps intended to, but, for a film which doesn’t really have a reason to exist, it’s still reasonably good. I guess some films are just picked on. Me, I enjoyed it for what it is; a highly generic but passable and reasonably entertaining fantasy adventure.