23. The Huntsman: Winter’s War

I never saw Snow White and the Huntsman.  I didn’t avoid it, per se, but I wasn’t itching to see it, either.  Kristen Stewart just doesn’t do it for me.  I needed something extra to get me into the theater (or even on my couch) to see that particular film.  The Huntsman: Winter’s War has that extra element: Emily Blunt.

Emily Blunt is one of my favorite actors, today.  In addition to her obvious talent, she has always had a way of choosing quality projects.  I not only enjoy her performances but I always seem to enjoy the films that she’s in, as a whole.  (Did you see Edge of Tomorrow?  You should see Edge of Tomorrow.)  Project selection is important (another expert in that field: Leonardo DiCaprio).  So, when I learned that she was in this movie, I knew I’d be seeing it.

Color me relieved when I discovered it was a prequel and I didn’t need to see the first film (as I had intended on doing) in order to follow this one.  Now, I knew I could go in and enjoy this amazing cast (Chastain, Hemsworth, and Theron are all also top-tier talents) and hopefully the movie, too, without having to watch a Kristen Stewart “performance”.

Or, at least, I thought it was a prequel.  It certainly starts out that way.  Then, it jumps forward and turns into a sequel.  But it was okay!  And it was okay for two reasons: 1. Still no Kristen Stewart and 2. Narrator Liam Neeson filled me in on what little I needed to know.  Thank you, Liam Neeson!  Just to show my appreciation, I’m sending a box of Trix your way.

Anyway, I was expecting this to be a similar experience to the one I had when I saw Criminal, when I liked the cast but disliked the movie, itself.  Nope!  For me, The Huntsman: Winter’s War was the first big pleasant surprise of 2016.

I will say that the pacing is a little slow, but not dreadfully so.  And, as usual, it’s not perfect.  Some events occur just because they need to happen, with no explanation or reasoning given for them, whatsoever.  This isn’t a plague upon the film, but it happens a few times – particularly at the beginning of the film.  And the Magic Mirror is really just a giant gold dish with moderate reflective properties.  But whatever.  It’s magic; it does its thing when it needs to.  And as for the unexplained events, they could be explained; they just aren’t.  So, these things didn’t bother me too much.

The special effects are okay.  They aren’t top-notch at all times and I can’t really figure out where they sunk all 115 million of their dollars.  But, they’re good enough, in most cases, and the action scenes are fun.

As expected, the cast delivers.  Unlike the aforementioned Criminal, they each get their time to shine and exhibit why they’re all so highly sought after.  Theron is deliciously evil, Blunt gets to exercise her entire range, Chastain finally gets to let her heroic side out (and she rocks a killer brogue accent), and Hemsworth turns on the charm.  Zero complaints here.

The biggest surprise is how funny the movie is.  It isn’t a comedy, but there are some lighter moments and they absolutely land, virtually every time.  Hemsworth has already exhibited smooth comedic timing as Thor but he gets more opportunity to show that side of himself, here.  And the dwarves nearly steal almost every scene they’re in.  The humor added a lot to the movie for me and made sure I didn’t zone out during the slower moments.

I can say this: regardless of professional reviews, the audience I saw this film with was absolutely having a good time.  They laughed at the right moments, ooh-ed at the appropriate times, and sat quietly paying attention for the duration of the film.  They had fun.  And so did I.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War is refreshing in the sense that it exists solely to entertain.  It’s not making any sort of statement, it’s not getting political or trying to be smarter than it needs to be.  It just has fun and wants you to come along.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  Variety is important and movies are ultimately made to be entertaining above all else.

I was also surprised by the audience.  Firstly, it was much more crowded than I expected it to be.  We might be looking at a respectable weekend number, here.  Secondly, it attracted all four quadrants equally: men, women, young, and old.  They were all there at my screening and they were all enjoying themselves.

And I’m glad.  I’m finding myself rooting for this one to at least make a tidy profit.  It has heart and it feels like a lot of love was put into it.  That matters more than anything.  So, I’m happy to say that Emily Blunt still has yet to let me down!  Looking forward to her next one!

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