Hard to warm up to characters in ‘Winter’s War’
You’ve heard the phrase, “mirror, mirror on the wall… who’s the fairest of them all?” It has lead to a classic fairy tale that inserts “vanity, vanity, all is vanity” warnings throughout.
“The Huntsman: Winter’s War” assembles a live action fantasy fable (think medieval middle earth) in which gladiators and knights are replaced by dueling divas obsessed with themselves. Snow White has a peaceful, happy kingdom, though, she or her place in the sun are merely mentioned in this prequel and/or spin off of “Snow White and the Huntsman.”
Queen Freya (Emily Blunt), the sister of presumed dead Ravena (Charlize Theron) has a talent of projecting frozen ice storms (sound familiar?) leading her to seek a northern lair, where her blizzards and crystal walls reign. Freya translates her own ill-fated love to a condemnation of all compassion as weakness, scourging her to kidnap youngsters and indoctrinate them in the power of self doctrine. These expertly trained gender mixed huntsman armies accompany her as she rides a polar bear for conquest of the weak.
Two of Freya’s warriors violate a cardinal rule – Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) – fall in love and underestimate the Queen’s multiple owl eyes.
The fantasy boasts intricate visuals that exceptionally conceptualize the enchanted venue akin to the days of King Arthur’s England accompanied by unsightly dwarves and a mystic mirror.
Cedric Nicolas-Troyan enters the director’s chair for the first time after a string of visual arts credits (“Snow White and the Huntsman,” “The Ring,” two “Pirates of the Caribbean” sequels) and second unit director on Disney’s “Maleficent”). His visual arts strengths respond well to sorcery from the looking glass, dark forests, and both splendor and terror enveloped in the confines of Freya’s ice castle.
One can’t help noticing the Snow Queen crossover which depicts a much more ferocious and vengeful edition of “Frozen”; there’s no Anna to melt the ice queen’s heart.
“Winter’s War” has rare opportunities for evoking fable-like comparisons for the emotion known as love. Evil envelopes the “fairest,” setting off a probing concern: Does self-obsession accompany tremendous beauty accompanied by an inability to relate to empathy, compassion and the gift of discovering a complimentary part of you in the arms of another?
Queen Freya views the romantic attraction of a sharing couple as a weakness, causing the power of self to diminish.
A strong cast (who’s the meanest of them all Blunt or Theron?) and up-close-and-kicking intense striking battles dominated by the chorus of Wonder Woman prevail, but mixing genres ensures logic lapses, dangling subplots, and (surprise?) lack of empathy for any character.