Picoreview: The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Picoreview: The Huntsman: Winter’s War: even worse than I expected. I said that to Mom, that it was worse than I expected and I went in expecting to be disappointed, and she said, “I’m glad there was SOME surprise!” *laughs out loud*

You can tell it’s bad before the credits even really get rolling, because Liam Neeson starts doing a completely unnecessary voiceover, and he keeps at it periodically throughout the film.

I believe that if they had given Charlize Theron a piece of furniture she would have literally chewed it; I commend her for her absolute commitment to the role. If she and Eddie Redmayne’s character from Jupiter Ascending got together it would be epic. There were a couple of guys sitting next to me. One of them kept pulling his hoodie over his head and flailing during the most impressive bits of the scenery-chewing.

There are some good things. It’s very pretty. The costuming is rather wonderful. The fight scenes are pretty good. As far as I can tell (having only seen the first film once, several years ago), they largely avoided the massive worldbuilding mistakes that plagued the first one. They are therefore to be admired for making a whole new host of shiny fresh mistakes, the first of which (I mean, besides Liam’s voiceover) is overwhelming and uncircumventable given what they did, so I will now make a spoiler cut behind which It Will Be Spoiled.

Know what this movie needed? What it really needed?

Kristen Stewart.

It needed Snow White.

It’s not a prequel. It’s an origin story followed by a time jump followed by a sequel, and in order to make the sequel work, they need Snow goddamn White. They mention her several times, but writing her out sucks the strength from the film. It shouldn’t be the Huntsman’s story. It should be Snow White’s, and it should be *fantastic*.

See, Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron are sisters and Blunt has a daughter who Theron murders in order to awaken Blunt’s sleeping magic. Except as much as awakening Blunt’s magic, it’s about the daughter going to grow up to be Fairest Of Them All, which BY ANY REASONABLE STANDARDS MAKES HER SNOW FREAKING WHITE.

Yes, it would have taken a bit of rigging, but not THAT much, because there’s already even enough *time* between The Origin and The Bulk of the story for it to work. And it means what *should* happen in this movie is that Snow White, who has lost her parents, and Queen Freezytoes (Freya, for God’s sake, they called her Freya @.@), who lost her daughter, should have clashed in an epic fucking battle as Freezytoes attempts to take over the world, only for them to eventually discover that they’ve both been had by the Mirror/Theron and then they should together turn to fight, as mother and daughter, against the true evil in the land, ultimately defeating it in (perhaps tragic) triumph.

This is obviously not what happens. Instead it’s the Huntsman’s story as much as it’s anyone’s, but it doesn’t even feel definitively his, to me. He gets dragged in reluctantly at first and then, to be fair, when he realizes the stakes he throws in fully, but then there’s a (pretty good) plot twist where it becomes a Personal Journey rather than being about the Larger Important Objective and his Personal Journey would have been a nice side story to the above-outlined STORY THAT SHOULD HAVE HAPPENED but it wasn’t enough to carry a movie with any conviction.

I mean, Chris Hemsworth is charming and handsome, so he’s pretty and nice to watch and all of that, and his origin story wasn’t bad (oh, ok, there was one really nice transition during the origin story, kudos to the film editor for that. it wasn’t a new never seen before transition, but it was nice.), but it just sort of dragged along being a Generic Fantasy Story with Generic Fantasy Quest Stops starring a Generically Attractive White Man* when it could have been so much more.

I mean, if NOTHING ELSE there was also an Attractive Black Man** (btw, the background characters in Freezytoes’s army were not all white people, so they did better with that than your run of the mill film) who, structurally, was set up for a whole whole WHOLE lot more than he got and I wanted to see some of THAT story, f’rex.

They manage to collect four dwarfs (dwarves!) along the way. At the point that the second two joined up I was like “well shit there better be seven by the end of this.” There weren’t. The four of them, however, were possibly the best part of the movie, and that’s saying a lot given that they use a lot of unkind humor, especially early on, and that is Not My Thing.

Look, I know I’m judging this film by what it failed to be and that I should be judging it for what it is, so let me cover the bases there: what it is is melodrama, caricature, and too long–but they made up for that with the long bits being boring, the pacing being poor, much of the chemistry not working very well, and the occasional voiceover.

There were moments, glimmers–not unlike the first movie!–where you could see potential shining through. But then they squashed all the potential with prejudice and every time it tried to come forward they crushed it again.

Seriously. That was awful. I didn’t think I had enough hope for it to be disappointed, but wow. That was bad.

*Okay, Hemsworth may be more than Generically Attractive, I’ll give you that.

**Attractive Black Men in films are still rare enough that Sope Dirisu doesn’t get saddled with being a Generically Attractive Black Man. It’s sort of like being Smurfette. But seriously, I wanted a lot more of his story.

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