HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Huntsman: Winter's War
HTS Overall Score:80
A long time ago in a galaxy far far away. Or at least in a time long ago and in a storybook fairy tale. As the opening narration by Liam Neeson states, “A story long before happily ever after”, we are in for a bit of a prequel to 2012’s “Snow White and the Huntsman”. Or, in this case, a prequel AND a sequel, being that “Winter’s War” takes place both before AND after the happenings that caused Snow White to take away the cruel Ravenna’s power and become queen herself. The results are decidedly mixed, with the storytelling being a little bit subpar to the 2012 film, but actually ends up feeling better in tone thanks to the exclusion of Kristen Stewart (who seems to have the acting range of Steven Seagal. Or at least the same blank expression on her face the entire time she acts). While there are some bumps and bruises along the way, and a definitely lackluster ending that screams “franchise!”, the sequel fares ever so slightly better than the predecessor, although it ends up being a fairly big box office bomb in the end.
Back before Snow White as the fairest of them all there was more than ONE witchy woman. Ravenna (Charlize Theron) lived with her sister Freya (Emily Blunt), but Freya had not come into the same power that Ravenna (and all the women of her family) wielded. In fact she had no desire for power, instead content to love a man of royal blood and settle down to raise a family. That is until her husband betrayed her trust (seemingly) and killed their child, finally unleashing the power of ice that was hiding, latent, within the broken woman. Vowing to never love again, Freya went to the north and raised herself an army. An army made up of boys and girls that she rescued from the “love” of parents whom she believed would betray them just as she was betrayed by her one and only love. Thus, the Huntsmen are born. An army made by a cruel queen intent on making sure that no one ever loved again. However, love seems to find a way, as Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sarah (Jessica Chastain) break that sacred bond, and are cast away as dead for their crime.
Now we all know what happened after that. Eric became Ravenna’s personal Huntsman, and Snow White rose to power after destroying the evil witch. Now, years later, The Hunstman is living in the woods in solitude, protecting the forest from those who would harm it and the queen. However, things have gone south for Snow White, with the famous mirror slowly driving her to drink. She had thought to contain the mirror at a hidden fortress and keep its evil from infecting the world once more, but the mirror and her convoy has gone missing. Now the only person who can track it down and recover the artifact happens to be our loveable Hunstman and his band of dwarves (played by Nick Frost and Rob Brydon). However, evil is something that never dies, and just because you think you’ve defeated a villain once, doesn’t mean that you won’t have to once more.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=77089[/img]“The Huntsman: Winter War” isn’t exactly an excitingly new or refreshing take on the fantasy genre, but it has its charms. There’s plenty of bad writing and clichéd storytelling to go around, what with Snow White out of the picture and Hemsworth to take over the lead, so much seems to have been changed with the queen absentee. This time around The Huntsman is a lot cheekier and less brooding than he was in the predecessor. This time he’s got all the boyish charm and good looks that Hemsworth tends to brings to his films. On the flip side we have the incredibly beautiful Jessica Chastain as the supposed dead wife from the first film (yeah, we all knew that was going to happen from the trailers) and while she isn’t given a fully fleshed out character development, she’s a passable action heroine for Hemsworth to live and die for. Emily Blunt was the real reason I wanted to watch the sequel, as the woman is a fantastic actress and a complete doll to boot. Sadly she is given the worst of the dialog and the lowest level of development, leaving me feeling sad as the blockbuster actress is not really given anything to work with. Her character is sadly left out in the cold (pun intended) and while you truly feel for her plight, you can tell that even Blunt has realized by the second half of the movie that her role is just there for window dressing.
Despite the cheesy acting and mishmash of fantasy genres (I honestly had to chuckle when I noticed elements of “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” blended in with classic Grimm style fairy telling), but the exclusion of Kristen Stewart had me loathing the story less than I expected to. There’s nothing new, nothing fresh and nothing overly intelligent about the story, but it makes for a decent enough popcorn movie, especially if you’re like my wife and muttering something about Chris Hemsworth not taking his shirt off nearly enough these days.
Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence and some sensuality
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=77097[/img]Just like “Snow White and the Huntsman”, “Winter's War” features a stellar video encode that sparkles in the digital realm with all sorts of CGI magic. Colors can be a bit dim and blue tinted to mimic the dread and grimness of the tale, but there are elements of brilliantly lit joy throughout. The gold trimming on the goblins sparkle with light and the brilliant blue/white of Freya’s magic is incredibly life like. There is a bit of noise here and there in the darkness, but for a majority of the film there is nothing but razor sharp clarity of detail and excellent replication of the dark looking movie. Shadow detail is excellent, and the black levels are sickeningly deep (look at the black leather that all of the Hunstmen wear, as well as Ravenna’s nasty black spikes that she used in both films). It’s a sharp looking picture that does the Blu-ray justice.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=77105[/img]Now Universal has been nice to us fans and given a stellar DTS:X object based encode, but not only put it on the 4K UltraHD version (as some studios are doing nowadays), but also including those options on the Blu-ray as well, which is something people greatly appreciate given not everyone has 4K equipment yet. The encode for both disc is identical thus my review of the audio will be the same across both formats. The track is vibrant and full of life, with the sounds of whistling arrows dancing around the soundstage amidst the clash of steel and axe blades. Horse hooves thud with impending doom, powerful and weighty to match. Ice walls form and crash through objects with roaring power and the surrounds are never at a loss for material as the heat of battle surrounds the listener with a fantastic sense of immersion. LFE is tight and powerful, but never feels overly weighty. Dialog is crisp and clean, with the only “flaws” being the fact that Hemsworth and Chastain pull off some pretty thick Irish accents while the dwarves are using some thick British dialect sometimes making me wish I had put on subtitles (although that is no fault of the track’s mixing at all.
• Deleted Scenes
• Gag Reel
• Winter's Vistas: The Making of The Huntsman: Winter's War
- Two Queens and Two Warriors
- Meet the Dwarves
- Magic All Around
- Dressed to Kill
- Love Conquers All
• Audio Commentary with Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
It’s very rare that a sequel surpasses its predecessor, but “Winter’s War” manages to do so (even if it is by just the barest of margins). You can definitely tell that this was meant to be the next entry into a franchise of films (just watch the last few seconds of the movie to see what I’m talking about), but something tells me that this may be the last “Huntsman” tale for quite some time as the movie really struggled theatrically compared to the “Snow White and the Hunstman”. I personally had a decent amount of fun with the movie, and the audio/video scores are to die for. While not highbrow fantasy, it’s at least worth a rental.
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron
Directed by: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Written by: Evan Spiliotopoulos, Craig Mazin
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: Korean: DTS:X (DTS-HD MA 7.1 Core), Spanish, French DTS 5.1, DTS Headphone:X
Runtime: 120 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: August 23rd 2016
Buy The Huntsman: Winter's War On Blu-ray at Amazon
Buy The Huntsman: Winter's War On 4K UltraHD Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Decent Rental
More about Mike