The Huntsman: Winter’s War
Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
In 2012, “Snow White and the Huntsman” opened to mediocre reviews and went on to earn similar responses from general audiences. It failed to make back its production budget at the domestic box office and even with more success on a worldwide basis, it’s doesn’t appear to have been very successful either financially or in terms of its artistic reception. All of which makes this week’s “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” an odd project, as the sequel to a film that seemed unlikely to yield one.
Additionally, the story didn’t leave much undone or unresolved and so the makers of the new film have gone for an origin story of the Huntsman character (Chris Hemsworth) in a timeline that begins before the events of the first film and then awkwardly seems to parallel them. In this story, the evil queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) has a sister Freya (Emily Blunt) who loses a daughter, apparently during a “Frozen” marathon, and becomes an evil ice queen. She steals children from families within her lands and trains them to fight for her – as her Huntsmen.
The new film would simply be bland and uninteresting if it wasn’t for the temptation to try and compare time and story lines. Apparently, the first film takes place in the middle of this film but out of sight of it. However, the backstory of the HuntHemsworthman doesn’t quite seem to fit, especially in terms of his relationship with his wife, Sara. In the first film we’re given the impression that she saves him from himself when he returns homes broken from wars and in the second she fights those wars with him, as another Huntsman. Those two versions aren’t absolutely incompatible but it feels odd that what was at first a character’s occupation has now become an entire category of enslaved combatants. There also seem to be questions of who would know each other across the two plots.
When a film’s only redeeming characteristic is the prospect of finding plot inconsistencies, you know there’s a problem. Plus this one is doing even worse in terms of reviews and, despite costing significantly less to make, looks like it will be lucky to make back half of its budget, based on opening sales. The upside of which is that it’s even less likely we’ll see more of this content – but then that’s how it felt the first time.
I’m often bothered by films that are based in historic events that lay claim to a greater degree of accuracy than they seem to reflect. It’s something that can be avoided in assorted ways, including not attempting to be accurate in the first place or by recounting events about which very little is widely known in the first place. This week we get both.
In “Miles Ahead,” an inexperienced reporter (Ewan McGregor) is attempting to interview Miles Davis (Don Cheadle) and is chastised for asking the wrong questions and trying to tell the wrong story. When he asks Davis how he would tell the story, the result is a story of intrigue, backstabbing, drug use and gunfights.
In “Elvis & Nixon,” we’re given an account of the day that led up to the meeting, in 1970, between Elvis Presley (Michael Shannon) and Richard Nixon (Kevin Spacey) at the White House. Elvis was apparently fixated on being made a federal agent and Nixon’s staff saw the proposed encounter as a public relations dream.
Whether or not either film holds up in a historic context, they’re both very entertaining, both rely on strong central performances, and the latter in particular builds and gets funnier as it becomes an odd couple comedy. It’s worth noting that “Miles Ahead” was made with the approval of the Davis family and ”Elvis & Nixon” features a performance by Alex Pettyfer as Presley’s close friend Jerry Schilling, who was there on the day, and Schilling was involved in the film’s production. So if they’re all happy and I had a good time, then they both feel like pretty successful projects.