Movie review: Inferno

Movie reviews

Hello, my dear readers!

The latest Dan Brown/Ron Howard/Tom Hanks collaboration – Inferno – has reached cinemas, so, let’s review it!

IMDb summary: When Robert Langdon wakes up in an Italian hospital with amnesia, he teams up with Dr. Sienna Brooks, and together they must race across Europe against the clock to foil a deadly global plot.

I have done a preview post for this film where I talked about all the books as well as the previous films of the franchise (you can find it here). As usual, I’ll try to list as many book-to-movie changes as I could spot, although it has been a few months since I’ve read the novel, so I might not have noticed everything. Once again, the critics are ripping this movie apart (like the earlier movies of the series), so I’ll also try to defend it from a fan’s perspective.

SPOILERS AHEAD

Writing

The screenwriter David Koepp adapted Dan Brown’s novel to the big screen and did a fairly good job. Koepp’s track record has been mixed. Although the movies he has written have been very financially profitable, not all of them were liked by the movie goers or the critics. He has contributed to such successes as Jurassic ParkMission: Impossible and Panic Room. However, he also co-wrote the horrible Indiana Jones 4 and directed one of the worst films of Johnny Depp’s career – Mordecai. Koepp has also written the second film of the Robert Landon franchise – Angels & Demons – it used to be my favorite, but I think Inferno has taken its place.

For the bigger part of the movie, narrative alterations have been minimal. Even the third act and the finale went down in a similar way in the book, however, the final end-game of the story was changed completely.

To begin with, the book started with Langdon already in the hospital, while the movie added an explanatory set-up (and yet ‘Would you press a button’ idea came from the book). The picture immersed the viewers into the film’s world first and then dropped Langdon in it, while the book used Langdon as the reader’s lens into the world of the story. The screenwriter also modernized the narrative by showing Zobrist giving a Ted talk like presentation and by using a drone to look for Langdon and Sienna.

The scriptwriter also added some shared history for Sienna and Langdon (met when she was a kid), introduced an idea that Langdon might be a carrier of the virus, and also added a new character of Christoph Bouchard – the inclusion of him allowed the film to explore the plot-line of a virus possibly being stolen and sold. Furthermore, Koepp cut Sinskey’s personal background and added some shared backstory for her and Langdon. He also streamlined the story and made it more linear, as usual for book-to-movie adaptations.

The film’s finale happened in the same location as did the book’s. The premise was also similar – Langdon + W.H.O. and Sienna were separately looking for the bag. However, that’s where the similarities ended. In the film, Sienna had mini bombs to break the bag – she didn’t have them in the book. However, the biggest change was the fact that the virus was actually contained in the movie, while the book explained that the bag has dissolved a week ago and that the virus was already out in the world. The film only talked about the virus killing half of the population, while, in the book, this was only a false facade to hide the fact that the virus would sterilize a third of world’s population. The book also had Sienna’s character surviving the whole thing and she even ends up working for World Health Organization to research the virus, though the book also made it explicit that the sterilization of some humans might be a good thing. The movie cut this kinda controversial ending and finished the picture with the good guys winning and Sienna dying for basically nothing. I wish the filmmakers would have had the courage to keep the novel’s ending.

The film had a lot of expositional dialogue and monolog – some of it worked well and seemed organic, some appeared forced and out-of-place. The character development through dialogue was good: e.g. Sienna mentioning her childhood and Langdon saying that he had a fear of tight spaces and a bad past relationship. However, before the 3rd act of the film began and all the characters had to get on the same page, that part of the exposition was a bit cliche and an extremely obvious plot device.

Directing

Ron Howard (Rush, In The Heart of The Sea) directed the picture, like the two previous features of the franchise and did a solid job. The pacing was really good for the majority of the film, but the movie did slow down during the Sienna/Zobrist flashback and before the 3rd act. The dream montages were effective and quite scary and Langdon’s disorientation was also portrayed well through the shaky cam, close-ups, and quick cuts. I also liked how the classical music was incorporated into the finale – it wasn’t just an outside soundtrack but an actual diegetic musical score. I also found it amusing that the 3rd act’s action happened in the water – fitting for Langdon’s swimming/water polo background.

Acting

  • Tom Hanks as Robert Langdon was good as always. I’m one of a few people who actually like Hanks as this character and I also cannot ever find anything wrong with his acting abilities – in my opinion, he is one of the best and most reliable actors (quality-wise) of today. I don’t think that I would be able to pick my favorite movie of his because I have seen so many and all of them have been great, so I’m just gonna list his latest and upcoming performances. Hanks recently starred in Bridge of Spies, A Hologram for the King, and Sully (which will only premiere in the UK in December – so annoying). Going forward, he will star and produce The Circle and will also come back to voicing Woody in Toy Story 4
  • Felicity Jones as Dr. Sienna Brooks was great as well. Since I knew the big twist of her character, I think I noticed a few hints at it in Jones’s performance. She had a weird look here and a strange expression there, so I was expecting the reveal and was mostly sure that it wouldn’t be cut. I was first introduced to Jones in The Theory of Everything, since then she has moved to way bigger things. On top of being in Inferno and another possible awards’ contender for this year – A Monster Calls – she will also play the lead in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story.
  • Ben Foster as Bertrand Zobrist was good. He didn’t get a lot of screen-time – he actually mostly appeared in flashbacks or in videos. Nevertheless, he played a solid mad genius. Foster’s recent performances include The ProgramThe Finest HoursWarcraft and one of my favorite movies from this year Hell or High Water.
  • Omar Sy (The IntouchablesJurassic Worldas Christoph BouchardSidse Babett Knudsen (A Hologram for the King) as Elizabeth Sinskey and Irrfan Khan (Life of Pi, Jurassic World, The Jungle Book Hindi version) as Harry Sims were also great in their supporting roles. Khan probably stood out the most out of the three of them just because his character was so interesting – wish we could have explored his backstory and his company more.

In short, Inferno was a solid action adventure film with some art history sprinkled on top. It had an okay writing, good directing and nice performances. It wasn’t a special or groundbreaking movie, but I still had fun with it and definitely do not understand why critics hate it so much.

Rate: 3.5/5

Trailer: Inferno trailer

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Movie review: Captain America: Civil War

Movie reviews

Hello!

I’ve just come back from the cinema where I’ve watched the newest Marvel movie. I have been eagerly waiting for Captain America: Civil War since it was announced and I can’t wait to discuss it with you. I’m also predicting that this post will be quite long, so prepare yourselves! I’ve already done a review of the graphic novel that this movie is based on, so I invite you to read that blog entry before checking out this review! You can also find the reviews of other MCU movies here: Captain America 1&2, Avengers 2, Ant-Man and Guardians of the Galaxy. 

IMDb summary: Political interference in the Avengers’ activities causes a rift between former allies Captain America and Iron Man.

SPOILER ALERT

Audience

Just before I start talking about the movie, I would like to mention a few things about the audience of the film. I complained in BvS’s review that there were only a few female viewers in my screening. Well, Civil War’s screening was also male-centric but there were more female viewers than in the BvS. The screening that I went to was also solely adult, which was kinda weird. Dark DC films are not as appropriate for children as the lighter Marevl films and yet there were a few kids in BvS and no children in Civil War. This might have just been a coincidence, but I still found it strange and worth mentioning.

Writing and Story

Captain America: Civil War was written by a long-time duo of screenwriters – Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. They have written all previous Captain America’s films, Thor: The Dark Wold and will be scripting both parts of the Infinity War. I believe that they more than succeeded with the story of Civil War. In general, Marvel/Disney has done it AGAIN. They not only met my expectations but exceeded them.

To begin with, this film was not an adaptation of the Civil War comic book, and that may annoy some people. Captain America: Civil War was a sequel to Winter Soldier, a continuation of Iron Man’s trilogy, Age Of Ultron’s sequel and a setup/origin story for the new characters. Civil War arc was the thing that tied all of these story lines together but was not the main focus of the film.  I enjoyed the fact that the movie had so many connecting yet different/separate storylines – it gave the feeling of a bigger cohesive universe – Marvel Cinematic Universe – while in BvS all the different plotlines just made the film messy. That’s why you make an epic team-up/versus movie 13th in the franchise, not 2nd.

  • Winter Soldier sequel – the movie expanded the Winter Soldier’s backstory. We found out that in the 1990s Hydra was operating in Russia – moved from the nazis to the soviets. The movie also introduced the idea that there were more Winter Soldiers but never really went anywhere with it. I would have liked an explanation for that blue stuff/liquid.  The new villain of the film (who wasn’t really a villain) also used the info that Black Widow put online at the end of Winter Soldier. Lastly, the character of Crossbones, who was first introduced in Cap 2 as a S.H.I.E.L.D. agent (member of the S.T.R.I.K.E. team) was also featured in the Civil War’s opening, while trying to get his revenge on Captain America as well as steal a bio weapon. 
  • Continuation of Iron Man’s story – Tony Stark’s past – his parent’s death – as well as his present actions as an Avenger – played an important role in the film. This film also kinda returned the title of the leader of the Avengers back to Tony. Remember, how at the end of Age of Ultron, Captain America was the one shouting Avengers Assemble? Well, Civil War’s ending kinda suggested that Iron Man is resuming the position of the leader, since Cap is an outlaw now. Or maybe Cap will be leading Secret Avengers? Iron Man became the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. at the end of comic book Civil War, so it’s only right that he is back at the helm of the Avengers in the movie.
  • The film’s main idea, as well as Zemo’s main objective, was to break the empire from the inside – a.k.a break the Avengers from the inside. And while it looks like he succeeded – he certainly thinks that he succeeded – the hopeful ending of the film with the letter and the phone kinda suggests that the Avengers will be back together. Plus, we, as viewers, know that they will be back together since thy will have to fight Thanos.
  • Age of Ultron sequel – Sokovia accords, Zemo’s desire for revenge and Iron Man’s guilt originated in the Avengers sequel and were dealt with in Civil War. Also, the woman who confronted Tony at MIT was probably a nod to the comic book Mrs. Sharpe or she might have been an actual Mrs. Sharpe.
  • The origin stories for new characters: Civil War introduced us to Black Panther and Spider-Man. We got a chance to see T’Challa take on 2 mantels – king’s and warrior’s. We also met the new Peter Parker as well as his aunt – that whole sequence was one of the funniests in the film.

Shout-outs to the missing characters: Both Hulk and Thor were mentioned in the film. The characters wonder about their location and also questioned whose side would they choose. I think it was a good idea to cut them from the film, so as not to overcrowd it, especially when we will see both of them in Thor: Ragnarok 

Jokes: during the first half of the film, I kinda thought that Civil War might probably be the most serious film of the MCU with the smallest amount of jokes. However, then Ant-Man and Spider-Man showed up and went to town. I feel like both of their characters represented us – the viewers – and their actions probably mimic the actions that the fans would make if they met their favorite superheroes.

The writers also did an extremely good job with making the viewers understand and even sympathize  with both conflicting sides. That’s why the action scenes, where the heroes were fighting each other, were so interesting – the audience did not know who to root for. 

Lastly, the film featured a version of the prison for superheroes and it was completely different from the prison in the comics, which is not surprising. Nevertheless, it looked really cool and I wish that we would have gotten a chance to explore it more. 

Directing and Action

The Russo brothers did an amazing job directing the film – I am so glad that they will be the ones in charge of Avengers Infinity War Part 1 and 2. In Civil War, The Russos successfully juggled all the different storylines, gave the viewers enough character moments and plenty of exciting and epic action. It looked like action scenes were filmed with a handheld camera (and were actually done in-camera), so the frame was very mobile – it constantly moved and I needed a few minutes to get used to it. However, after that, I enjoyed all the actions scenes immensely. There were so many of them that they all kinda blurred together – I need a second viewing of the film to pull them all apart. 

Having said that, even though I’ve only seen the film once, I do perfectly remember those iconic shots with both teams charging into battle as well as Iron Man, Winter Soldier and Captain America fighting at the end. I really really enjoyed the sequence of the big battle because of the different fighting pairs and because those pairs constantly shifted. For example, Black Widow wasn’t always fighting Hawkeye and Iron Man wasn’t always going up against Captain America. Cap had a fight with Spidey and Hawkeye tried going against Black Panther. All of the characters moved around non-stop and fought whoever was in their way.

In addition, the other aspect of the film’s action that I liked was the Avengers, combining their powers – especially Scarlet Witch lifting Cap and then working with Falcon. I also would like to applaud the fight choreograpger – James Young – for his amazing work – all of the action scenes were unique and different yet all equally interesting. Moroever, the movie was set all over the world and I really appreciated the international feeling that it had, since Marvel’s fan come from all over the world. Lastly, the picture had an amazing and emotional score by Henry Jackman, who has previously composed music for  X-Men: First ClassCaptain Phillips, Captain America: The Winter SoldierKick-Ass, and Big Hero 6.

Acting and Characters

Although the film had a lot of characters, not any of them felt shoved in – they all fit into the story organically and all got plenty of screentime/development.

Team Captain America:

  • Chris Evans as Steve Rogers / Captain America: Evans was, once again, really great in the role. He is the Captain America and I will be very sad if someone else will take his mantel. This might happen in the near future, as the producers have said that Captain America’s story arc that started in The First Avenger is now complete. Moreover, Evans only has Infinity War Part 1 and 2 left of the contract. The way he dropped his shield at the end might be a reference to the fact that the end is near for Roger’s Captain America. I also really loved that they brought back the line ‘I could do this all day’. If you would like to see a non-comic book movie with Evans, may I suggest Snowpiercer.
  • Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes / Winter Soldier: Stan was also really good in the role. I loved the fact that we find out more of his backstory but I would also like to find out even more about that red book and why those specific words trigger something in him. Plus, I liked his friendly (or not) banter with Falcon – I felt like they were fighting for the position of Steve Roger’s best friend. Lastly, a great non-comic book film, starring Stan, is The Martian, if you are interested.
  • Anthony Mackie as Sam Wilson / Falcon: Mackie’s Falcon is slowly becoming my favorite secondary character (and by secondary I mean that he doesn’t have a standalone frannachise). I enjoyed the shots with him fighting and I loved seeing him use the wings to fight and flip over. I also loved how he and Scarlet Witch combined their powers in the opening action scene. I wouldn’t mind if Falcon would get his own movie or at least would be featured on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. If you want to see more of Mackie but don’t want to wait for him to get his on movie or TV show, check out Triple 9.
  • Jeremy Renner as Clint Barton / Hawkeye: Renner was also great as Hawkeye once again. I have always been a fan of his character, since I love archery myself, so I am always happy to see him, although half of the fandom usually is not. I loved the fact that Civil War continued Renner’s and Scarlet Witch’s relationship – he was the one who talked her into going into battle in Age of Ultron, and her brother was the one to die saving Hawkeye, so it was only right that Clint was the one to break Wanda free. Film suggestion for the fans of Renner Mision Impossible: Rogue Nation.
  • Elizabeth Olsen as Wanda Maximoff / Scarlet Witch: another new favorite. I loved her hand movemets in Age of Ultron and they still look cool in Civil War. Plus, I enjoyed Olsen’s facial expressoons, especially in the opening scene, where she realized what she has done. Also, the way she threwv cars at Iron Man was a pretty great move. Her accent was also consistent and authentic – I especially like her accent because that’s the accent that I have, as an Eastern European (mine is not that strong though). Olsen has previously starred in Godzilla and next year will start in thriller Wind River, alongside Renner.
  • Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter / Agent 13: I was so glad to see more female characters in the comic book film. I loved the fact that they finally came out and said that she is a Carter and a relative of Peggy’s – Steve’s face, when he find that out was nicely confused. That whole scene, however, was quite sad, because I didn’t want to see Peggy go. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the fact that they gave Sharon some action scenes to participate in and that she was an important informant for Team Cap: while no one can replace Peggy, Sharon might be a great substitute. Her kiss with Steve was only a cherry on top – especially when they showed Bucky’s and Sam’s reaction – that shot was priceless and got the most laughs from the audience during my screening. I would love to see Sharon Carter pop up on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. – that would also mean more work for VanCamp – I used to watch her on Revenge, but that series ended a few years ago, so I’m sure that VanCamp would be open for more work.
  • Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man: I was really happy to see Paul Rudd as Ant-Man. I loved his interactions with Sam as well as his adoration of Cap. And can we just talk about the ‘big distraction’? They turned him into Giant-Man – didn’t even save that for the Ant-Man sequel – and it was epic. The CGI of Giant-Man was also pretty great. Tony Stark’s reaction to him – ‘okay, does anyone on our side have any amazing tricks?’ – was also superb. Scott Lang’s line ‘Hank Pym told me to never trust a Stark’ was also pretty great. Ant-Man sequel is scheduled for 2018, so we still have a few years to wait.

Team Iron Man:

  • Robert Downey, Jr. as Tony Stark / Iron Man: Downey, Jr. could probably play this role in his sleep or, actually, he would not even need to play it, because he is both Tony Stark and Iron Man. I loved the fact that we got to see Downey, Jr. fight as both Tony Stark (that watch was super cool) and Iron Man. The Pepper Pots tie-ins were kinda hit and miss for me, though. Nonetheless, I enjoyed seeing that weird presentation with the hologram of young Tony – the CGI was amazing and that scene also set up the fact that Tony is still dealing with the loss of his parents. Lastly, I would not be surprised if we would get more Iron Man stand-alone films in the near of far future. Then again, Iron Man is set to appear in the new Spider-Man film, so maybe Downey, Jr. will only be appearing in other character’s films moving forward. For those interested, a quite good non-comic book film with Downey, Jr., which was also produced by him, is The Judge. 
  • Scarlett Johansson as Natasha Romanoff / Black Widow: an old time favorite of mine (both the character of Black Widow and Scarlett Johansson as an actress). Black Widow was the one who changed sides during the big battle, while in the comics, Spider-Man did that. But, since Spidey is so new to the MCU, it is not surprising that they didn’t use him that much and only featured him in the big battle and in the scenes with Iron Man. Black Widow had a few nice moments with Hawkeye (‘are we still friends?‘) and with Iron Man (‘do you actually agree with me?‘). I still have hope that we will get Black Widow stand-alone film,but until then, check out Johansson in Hail, Caesar! and Lucy.
  • Don Cheadle as James “Rhodey” Rhodes / War Machine: Cheadle was good in the role, but his injury was not that shocking, since he is a secondary character that was mostly features in Phase 1 and at the begining of Phase 2 and is not really that memorable (basically Rhodes only apperead in Iron Man films and the last picture of that trilogy came out 3 yeras ago – nobody really remembers those film that well, especially when we had so many oher MCU films in the past 3 years). By the way, Cheadle’s other big franchise is Ocean’s Eleven/Twelve/Thirteen films, if you want to see more of him.
  • Chadwick Boseman as T’Challa / Black Panther: Boseman was amazing in the role and I think that Marvel has succesfully launched  a new character with the perfect actor to portray it. I loved T’Challa’s few scenes with his father T’Chaka, played by John Kani. I am also interested to see how the character that Martin Freeman played – Everett Ross – will be featured in the Black Panhter stand-alone film. In the comics, Ross is an ally of T’Challa, but at the end of Civil War, they were on different sides. Although, Black Panhter never truly picked a side – he only chose Iron Man because that suited his personal interests. However, after he learned the truth and realized that killing is not a solution, he kinda picked Captain America’s side. Moreover, Black Panhter is hiding the Secret Avengers, as shown in the middle credits scene. Last thought about the new character –  I really liked the accent that Boseman spoke with – it felt authentic and fitting to the character’s heritage. Black Panhter’s stand-alone film is coming out in 2018, but if you want to see more of Boseman, the only other movie of his that I’ve seen and, thus, can reccomend is Draft Day.
  • Paul Bettany as Vision: I loved the little glimpses of the Vision’s personality that we got a chance to see – his scenes alongise Wanda were nice and their short fight was also interesting. I also liked that scene were Vision and Iron Man were discussing the fact that Vision is an AI with feelings, who is also dangerous, powerful and might even be uncrontrolable. Loved to see this idea developed futher. Other Bettany’s films, worth checking out are Legend, and a few not so great ones that you might want to see – Transendence and Mordecai.
  • Tom Holland as Peter Parker / Spider-Man: I was really worried about the new Spider-Man because in the past 10 years, we already had 2 different Spider-Mans. However, all my worries were for nothing – Holland played an amazing and most true to the comics Spider-Man and the most believable Peter Parker. Now I am really excited about his new stand-alone films. It was also really nice that they featured aunt May, played by Marisa Tomei, in Civil War. I loved that awkward scene between aunt May, Tony Stark and Peter. I was first introduced to Holland as an actor in In The Heart of The Sea – that movie is defintely not as bad as its box office numbers suggest.

Other characters:

  • William Hurt as Thaddeus “Thunderbolt” Ross: I hated Ross in The Incredible Hulk but I disliked him even more in this film, so I guess Hurt did a good job, making me hate the character that he played. Nevertheles, his character was useful in the movies because his presence added a political aspect and increased the sophistication of the story.
  • Daniel Brühl as Helmut Zemo: Bruhl was really good in the role and he will probably appear in a different MCU film in the future. His story arc in the film – the arc of revenge – was not the most original but it did work. He played up the superheroes against one another in a similar way that Lex Luthor did in BvS. I don’t really know which one of them (if any of the two) was more succesful with his plan. Zemo was not a great villain but I don’t think that the filmmakers intended to portray him as an all-powerful villain. He was just a man, dealing with the loss by getting revenge. Zemo himself has mentioned that ‘more powerful men have went up against the Avengers and lost‘, so he kinda admitted that he was not a great villain. A few of Bruhl’s films that might be wroth your attention are Rush (alongside Thor), Inglourious Basterds (alongside Magneto), The Fifth Estate (alongside Doctor Strange) and Woman in Gold (alongside Deadpool).
  • Stan Lee had his obligatory cameo, this time as a FedEx delivery man – he also had a very cheesy joke – Tony Stank!

Middle-Credits and Post-Credits Scenes

The Middle Credits scene showed Captain America and Winter Soldier in Wakanda. Bucky is being fridged (literally) until someone figures out how to restore his mind. This scene also gave me an idea that Black Panhter might be the new financer of the Secret(?) Avengers – a replacement for Tony Stark.

The Post-Credits scene was a cheeky teaser for the Spider-Man film. It showed Peter Parker back home, trying to explain to aunt May what happened (‘I just picked a fight with Steve from Booklyn’) and also discovering some toys that Tony Stark created for him.

The actual credits of the film were also quite nice and unique. I loved the addition of those shadowy symbols – Anthony Mackie’s name appeared with wings for Falcon, Paul Bettany has a gem for Vision and Tom Holland had a spider-web for Spider-Man and etc.

In short, Captain America: Civil War was/is my new favorite Marvel movie. It had a great and sophisticated story and plenty of jokes. It has amazing character moments as well as exciting non-stop action. Marvel has done it again, and I couldn’t be more pleased.

Were/Are you #TeamIronMan or #TeamCaptainAmerica? What did you think of the film and are you planning to see it more than once? I usually don’t do multiple viewings of films at the cinema, but I might make an exception for Civil War.

P.S. I went to see this movie again and enjoyed it even more than the first time because I was able to  focus on the little details. I also realized 3 new-ish things: 

  1. The dialogue was really cleverly written and engaging.
  2. The plot was actually quite complex yet the story was aranged in a way that was easy to follow and not hard to understand – it was sophisticated yet clear.
  3. The movie walked the line between the two idealogies extremely well and neither of the two sides seemed more right or wrong than the other. 

‬Rate: 5/5

Trailer: Captain America: Civil War trailer

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Movie review: The Huntsman: Winter’s War

Movie reviews

Hello!

I just came back from watching The Huntsman: Winter’s War film, so without further ado, let’s talk about it!

To begin with, I was (and still am) surprised that this movie even exists. The first movie was financially profitable, but I didn’t think that it earned enough money to establish a franchise. The critical reception was also so-so (48% on Rotten Tomatoes). Also, that scandal with Kristen Stewart and the director of Snow White and the Huntsman – Rupert Sanders – really overshadowed the movie itself. Basically, I did not expect to see a sequel/prequel and, moreover, I don’t really think that anybody asked for one.

I have the same problem (the fact that they are not needed or asked for) with all the retellings of the fairy-tale movies. In addition, I still question the choice to retell them in such a dark and grim fashion, when the majority of cinema goers are more familiar with and are fans of the children-friendly Disney versions. Having said that, I do applaud the filmmakers for following their artistic vision and for putting a new spin on a well-known property. Also, a lot of these stories are very adult and dark at their core – just read the original versions of all the popular fairytales (we actually even studied them in English literature class during the last term at university), so portraying them in a darker tone is in line with the original tone of the stories. However, when going to see a fairy-tale based/inspired film, I usually want to escape the grim reality of life. Let’s be honest – we have enough of dark and inhumane stuff happening in the real world, we don’t need more of it in movies. So, on the whole, I have very mixed feelings about these fairy-tale movie remakes.

In addition, Snow-White’s story is a tale, which I have a strong personal connection with because I grew up reading it . I still have the actual copy of the book that I used to read the story from – it is on a shelve in my room, in my parent’s house back in Lithuania with all my other most prized possessions a.k.a. other books. On that same shelve, one would be able to find a book entitled Princesses’ Fairytales by Nicola Baxter – basically, I was a hardcore fan of stories about princesses even before I ever saw my first movie, be it a film about princesses or just a random animated feature

Speaking about other films, based on fairy tales, here is my review of 2015’s live-action Cinderella (that post is more of a personal study of feminism). Later this year, a few other fairy-tale inspired live-action films will hit cinemas: one sequel  – Alice Through The Looking Glass and two new remakes – The Jungle Book and The Legend of Tarzan. 

Lastly, before I went to see this film, I did not rewatch neither the 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman nor the Mirror Mirror version from the same year. However, I revisited the original animated picture Snow White and the Seven Dwarves from 1937 (the first feature length animated picture by Disney), and I gotta say, it still holds up. The hand painted 2D animation is refreshing and nostalgia-inducing in a world of 3D computer generated graphics. The songs are still pleasant (but a bit annoying, though), while the story is just a right balance of silly and sweet to be enjoyable. A must watch for any fans of animation from any generation.

So, I have given you a lot of context for this movie (maybe too much). Nevertheless, I will try my best to treat The Hunstman: Winter’s War as a separate entity and to judge it on its own. Let’s try that!

SPOILER ALERT

IMDb summary:  As two evil sisters prepare to conquer the land; two renegades – Eric the Huntsman – who previously aided Snow White in defeating Ravenna, and his forbidden lover, Sara set out to stop them.

Writing

The film’s script was written by a quite unusual duo of screenwriters: Craig Mazin and Evan Spiliotopoulos. Mazin has written scripts for movies like Scary Movie (3 and 4) and The Hangover (Part 2 and 3)Spiliotopoulos has mainly worked on Disney’s direct-to-video animated features, but he has also written 2014’s Hercules (not the best film) and is writing a screenplay for 2017’s live-action Beauty and the Beast. So, The Huntsman was a union of raunchy comedy (by Mazin) and more traditional animated storytelling (by Spiliotopoulos). The question is: was this ‘union’ successful? Somewhat, yes and no. 

First of all, the film was both a prequel and a sequel. It opened with  a short recap of the first film – really good idea because I don’t think that a lot of people remember what happened in the first film. The opening also kinda set up The Huntsman to be a total prequel – ‘a story that happened long before the happily ever after’. However, the prequel plot ended after the first 25 minutes. Then, the movie time jumped 7 years and told us that the events that happened in Snow White and the Huntsman occurred in that 7 years span. The rest 1 hour and 20 minutes were a continuation and an expansion of that story – a sequel.

  • Continuation

The Hunstman had two storylines/ideas that were very reminiscent of the first film:

  1. In the 2012’s Snow White, the Huntsman was mourning his dead wife – this film shows how they met and how she ‘died’.
  2. In the first film, Queen Ravenna feared that Snow White will grow up to be more beautiful than she. In this film, she was fearful of her sister’s daughter for the same reason.
  3. A few people from the first film also cameoed in the sequel: most notably, Sam Claflin as King William, Snow White’s husband and Snow White herself – at least her back – played by someone who was definitely not Kristen Stewart.
  • Expansion

The world of this series was expanded quite a bit. The film gave us the backstory of the Huntsman and added a few new characters, including a new villain/anti-hero –  Ravenna’s sister Freya, the Ice Queen with the frozen heart (literally). Her whole power set was very similar to that of Elsa’s in Frozen. The sibling relationship between sisters was also another aspect, which made this film seem like a live-action Frozen remake. However, the ‘end-game’ of the sisterly relationship in The Huntsman was completely different from the loving reconciliation between Anna and Elsa in Frozen.

Writing: – | + | –

The film was mostly predictable. It was easy to guess that the death of the Huntsman’s wife was only an illusion and that Freya’s baby daughter was killed by her sister/the baby’s aunt. The only thing that I didn’t predict but should have was that whole supposed betrayal by the wife. However, in the end, it turned out to be double-crossing and not a true betrayal (that part I did predict once again).

The movie’s narrative appealed to me because I am a fan of high fantasy worlds and adventure stories that happen in these worlds, like Lord of The Rings or Game of Thrones. I also can’t help but notice that all fantastical stories are usually set in medieval/historic times. Well, I guess medieval history is a bit mysterious, and the leap from mystery to magic is relatively small.

On the other hand, the film annoyed me a few times. First with the addition of the dwarves, who sounded very Scottish by the way. The comic relief that these characters provided was stupid and unnecessary. Also, that whole thing with competing genders wasn’t pleasant either. Lastly, that whole pairing up of the characters was also a cheap conclusion. Nevertheless, the overarching theme of the film was love (the most overdone topic of all), so maybe the pairing up did work. Maybe I just hate love. Am I secretly Freya, or even worse – her sister Ravenna? Honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised.

Directing 

Because of the aforementioned scandal, Sanders did not return to direct the sequel/prequel film. He was replaced by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan – the visual effects supervisor of the first film, who was also the director of the second unit. He also was the second unit director on Maleficient.  So, The Huntsman was the French director’s directorial debut (well, full one). I think that he did quite a good job with the film. The fighting scenes were exciting and interesting. The slower ‘talking’ scenes were also nice. Sanders combined close-ups of the actors’ faces with quite wide establishing and scenic shots. The sets, which were showed in those wider shots, were absolutely gorgeous – both the physical and the CGI ones. The costumes were also wonderful – the character design was impeccable and all actors, especially the two queens, looks breathtaking from head to toe. The liquid gold of the mirror was my favorite visual from the first film and it continued to be my favorite visual in the second film as well. The end credits were also very beautiful, paired nicely with the main theme song  – Castle by Halsey .

Acting

Winter’s War had a very start studded cast, led by the four(!) leads in the main roles:

  • Chris Hemsworth as Eric, the Huntsman. Hemsworth was really good in the role, especially in the fight scenes. I kinda feel that Snow White and The Huntsman is a backup franchise for Hemsworth if MCU doesn’t work out (small chance of that happening). Nevertheless, Hemsworth also stars in other pictures – I recently watched 2013’s Rush, in which he was really good. I also have reviewed his In The Heart of The Sea a few months ago. His other 2015 film Blackhat is also a not bad B picture and he was also in the first 10 minutes of 2009’s Star Trek. Going forward, later this year, Chris will be in Ghostbusters.
  • Jessica Chastain  was also really good in her role of  Sara, the Warrior. I loved the fact that she was an archer (who never misses) because I enjoy archery in my free time. Her back and forth bickering with Hemsworth was also good – they definitely had chemistry. I have only seen the most recent Chastain’s films, like Interstellar, The Martian and Crimson Peak. I also want to watch Zero Dark Thirty and A Most Violent Year, in which she stars.
  • Emily Blunt as Freya, the Ice Queen was a believable villain (well, sort of a villain). Her backstory was a bit cliche, but Blunt embraced the flawed writing and gave a great performance. She first appeared on my radar with 2006’s The Devil Wears Prada, but her best roles have come in the past few years, namely in Edge if Tomorrow, Sicario and my ultimate guilty pleasure film – Into The Woods. I am really excited to continue following her career in the near and far future.
  • Charlize Theron as Ravenna, the Evil Queen. Theron did not have that big of a role in this film. She mainly appeared in the first and last acts of the picture. Theron did a nice job, but her character’s power (tar tentacles?) was a bit weird. If you want to see a different film, in which Theron plays a bad-ass, just watch Mad Max Fury Road. I also recently checked out Prometheus (because I will be traveling to the filming locations of that picture’s opening sequence – Isle of Skye) – she is great in that film as well. Lastly, Theron is listed to be in next year’s Fast 8 – that should be interesting.
  • Other cast members included Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Alexandra Roach and Sheridan Smith as the dwarves who annoyed me. Sam Claflin (Mockingjay Part 1 and Part 2; Love, Rosie) also had a cameo. BTW, I am really excited for Claflin’s next film Me Before You. In addition, Testament of Youth’s Colin Morgan had a minor role as well.

To sum up, The Huntsman: Winter’s War was a perfectly enjoyable fantasy and adventure picture. The story was a bit cliche and predictable, but it nicely expanded the original narrative of the first film. The visuals were breathtaking while the acting was also believable. It is not a must-see for the majority of cinema goers, but casual fans of the high-fantasy genre should enjoy it. However, really die-hard fantasy fans might find it too generic. Lastly, I kinda feel that if this film is even slightly profitable, Universal will make another, so you might want to watch this one so as to prepare for the future movies.

Rate: 3.75/5

Trailer: The Hunstman: Winter’s War trailer

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