The Huntsman: Winter’s War 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review
We could easily make an argument against the need for a sequel to SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, but I can say that this is the best sequel they could have made. That’s not to say it’s a great movie, but they justified the sequel as best they could and they took the best part of the original (Hemsworth) and built a fun world and plot around him. Is it enough to sustain a franchise? Probably not, but THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR is a fun film and once again, Chris Hemsworth does a great job.
The first 30 minutes of The Huntsman is actually a bit of a prequel and sets up the sequel part of the film. We begin with Queen Fraya’s descent into darkness after she sees her lover murdering her baby daughter. Enraged with hate and fed up with the world, she embarks on a dark path and declares war on the north, using her newfound ability to freeze thins at will to scare everyone into submission. To lead her armies, she kidnaps children from villages and trains them to be ultimate warriors called “huntsman”.
That’s where we meet a young Eric (Hemsworth) and Sara (Chastain), who fall in love despite Fraya’s rule against love. Thinking Sara is dead, Eric is knocked unconscious and left for dead on the outskirts of Fraya’s kingdom. We then flash forward to 8 years after the events in SNOW WHITE AND THE HUNTSMAN, where we find Eric on his own, still mourning Sara’s death. He’s asked by William (Sam Claflin) to track down the magical mirror that has been stolen. Eric agrees and sets out on the journey to retake the mirror and dispose of it for good.
As far as sequels go, the plot for THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR was a bit complex, mainly because they didn’t really build off the events of the first film as much as they just took the main character and built around him. So the filmmakers had to build up a new world and reestablish some rules. But their efforts paid off because it quickly didn’t matter that we were ignoring the original; I was interested in the new characters and more invested in their plight.
Another good move from director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan was that he made the film more lighthearted, even though he was dealing with some serious events (child kidnapping is a surefire way to bring everyone down). A lot of that was on the shoulders of Chris Hemsworth, who was given more room to be himself, which allowed his natural charm and charisma to come through. The addition of Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt also helped, even though Chastain seemed a little out of place. Once again, Nick Frost returns as Nion and he and Rob Brydon play well off each other and provide some decent laughs. This isn’t a comedy, but the comedic moments aid the film and keep it from taking itself too seriously.
Once you get past the idea that this sequel absolutely didn’t need to be made, it’s actually a pretty decent film. It’s lighthearted fantasy fun and Chris Hemsworth carries it, making it more enjoyable than the original. I don’t think this world is worthy of a franchise, but the sequel surprised me and turned out to be a good time.
4K ULTRA HD BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: This is the first 4K title I’ve seen from Universal and I can say we’re off to one heck of a start. I knew going in that this had a 2K master and I assume this was upconverted from that, but this blows away the other 2K upconverts I’ve seen on the 4K format, so much so that I’m questioning the IMDB data. This is one of the clearest, sharpest discs I’ve seen yet and virtually every scene is ripe with examples. The scenes where Eric and his group are tracking down the goblins might be the best example when it comes to overall clarity. You can actually see the makeup on Mrs. Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith) as well as every little detail on everyone’s outfit. The various shades of green in the forest popped (for lack of a better word) and the water looked like you could reach out and touch it. If there was any drop in quality, it came as Raveena (Theron) was oozing out of the mirror. But a lot of the indoor castle scenes dropped a little bit. Overall, Universal really came through on the video quality of THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR.
Audio: I have to admit, I was shocked there wasn’t a Dolby Atmos included audio track. I know that’s going to irk some consumers, but the included DTS track did a fine job.
There are no 4K exclusive features included on the 4K disc, but it does include a copy of the Blu-ray.
The Blu-ray special features include:
Commentary with Cedric Nicolas-Troyan: Cedric is passionate about this film and it really comes through in the commentary. He gives a pretty decent commentary and it’s clear that he had a great time making the film, which is infectious while you’re listening to him talk about it.
Deleted Scenes (8:57): Four different scenes add nothing to the film.
Winter’s Vistas: The Making of The Huntsman: Winter’s War (36:17): Five different featurettes make up a making-of section. All of the basics are covered, including set design, special effects, costumes and about five minutes dedicated to how great everyone is. There was a lightheartedness to all of these that made them enjoyable and easy to watch.
Gag Reel (9:43): Nine minutes is a long time to watch actors flub their lines and get interrupted by airplanes.
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