April 14, 2016
This film is the second film following "Snow White and the Huntsman", a surprise hit movie in 2012. Oddly though, in this installment, the lead character Snow White is not in the title. In fact, Kristen Stewart was totally out of the cast of this picture!
This new film starts as a prequel to the events before the first film. The Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) had a younger sister Freya (Emily Blunt). When Freya suffered a personal tragedy, her wrath brought forth her innate power as Ice Queen. She established her realm in the cold north, creating a personal army of huntsmen from children kidnapped from villages she conquered. Of these kids, the best warriors turned out to be Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain). Going against the strict rule set by Freya, the two fall dangerously into love. From there, the film fast-forwards to events that happen after the first film ended to test if their love can indeed conquer all.
Because of the Ice Queen scenes, the beginning of the film felt like the live version of another Disney film, "Frozen"! In fact, you will get a sense of a lot of bits and pieces of several of these medieval films ("Lord of the Rings" and "The Hobbit" come to mind) and TV programs ("Game of Thrones" and the Unsullied army) while watching it. (Actually, Filipino viewers may also find that the scene where Freya built an ice wall between Eric and Sara will remind them of the plywood wall dropped between two popular lovers on a local TV noontime show. Haha!)
Chris Hemsworth has been elevated to be the sole title character upon which this franchise was built around. He looks good in his Huntsman costume and his swashbuckling action scenes. He had scenes where he was smiling and playing it cute, which was a departure from the usual intense look on his face in most of his films. The chemistry between his Eric and Jessica Chastain's Sara was not immediate, but it grew on you as the film progressed. Chastain is really a strong actress and held her own ground in this busy film.
Charlize Theron did not appear until after the second hour of the film already. Even then, she totally owned all her scenes as the flamboyant Ravenna because of her statuesque beauty, enhanced by her extravagant gowns and very strong screen presence. Emily Blunt underplays her icy role of Freya in perfect contrast to Theron's fiery performance. Blunt's character is the emotional center of this film and she succeeds to make us feel for her when she buckles at Ravenna's return.
What delighted me most about this film were the dwarves. The male dwarves Nion (whom we met previously in the first film) and his half-brother Gryff, played by Nick Frost and Rob Brydon. In their quest to retrieve the Magic Mirror, they meet a couple of female dwarves, the aggressive Bromwyn and the sweet Doreena, played by Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach. They provide the comic relief very effectively and I enjoyed watching their lively interactions with Eric.
The film looks very rich and opulent. No surprise that the director was Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, the second unit director and Oscar-nominated Visual Effects man for "Snow White and the Huntsman." Being his first feature film, the film may feel a bit uneven as a whole. However, the ravishing visual effects are really front and center here (though a bit overboard with the VFX on the Ravenna scenes). Though the script and story may not have been too clever or original, I thought "Huntsman" was an entertaining action-fantasy buoyed by its actors' charisma and lavish visuals. 6/10.