Tuesday, September 13, 2016

The Huntsman: Winter’s War 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray Review

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
The Huntsman: Winter's War stars Charlize Theron (Mad Max: Fury Road, Monster) as the evil Queen Ravenna, who betrays her good sister Freya (Emily Blunt: Sicario, Edge of Tomorrow) with an unforgivable act, freezing Freya's heart to love and unleashing in her an icy power she never knew she possessed. Retreating to a kingdom far to the north, Freya raises an army of Huntsmen as her protectors, with the only rule that no two of them should ever fall in love. As a war for domination escalates between the two queens, the hero standing between good and evil is Freya's most elite Huntsman, Eric (Chris Hemsworth: Thor, Star Trek). Alongside fellow warrior Sara (Jessica Chastain: The Martian, The Help) - the only woman who has ever captured his heart - Eric must help Freya vanquish her sister or Ravenna's wickedness will rule for eternity.
Film (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Huntsman: Winter’s War bills itself as a prequel to Snow White and the Huntsman and although it contains many of the same characters, it feels like s stand-alone film to me. You can certainly watch this film without seeing the other one first, and you might not want to spend too much time thinking about how and why they fit together.

Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) acts swiftly to eliminate her king and secure the magic mirror. Ravenna should be invincible with the mirror at her command. Her sister Freya (Emily Blunt) seems to be Ravenna’s polar opposite. Where Ravenna is cruel, Freya is gentle and kind. Freya does not believe that the power that Ravenna possesses will ever awaken in her. When tragedy strikes, Freya’s heart is broken and she literally turns into a literal ice queen. 

Freya has shut down her heart and dreams of conquest. She burns villages and takes their children. These children are forced to train to become her huntsman. Freya warns them that they may never love. The children grow up to be strong fighters. The best of the huntsman are Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain). They may be her best warriors but they have also fallen in love. Determined to be together the love birds hatch a plan to run away. The Ice Queen Freya is a step ahead of them. With an ice wall between them, Eric flees. 

Seven years later, Eric has been living as a free man. The new queen has sent the mirror away. Eric and two dwarves Nion (Nick Frost) and Gryff (Rob Brydon) must see to the task if securing the mirror. Along the way they meet with unexpected adventures and will see faces they thought were lost long ago.

The Huntsman: Winter’s War has some amazing costume elements. Ravenna and Freya have some awesome dresses and abilities that make them two very fierce sisters. When I saw the film in the theater the costumes were the element that struck me the most. Upon second and third viewing I appreciated the humor of the dwarves a lot more. Although it has its moments of fear and despair the story does seem a bit flat. I did enjoy this much more than Snow White and the Huntsman. 

 Trying to figure out where this film fit with that one was a bit challenging and I like this more when you think of it as a standalone film. A rainy scene in a small pub seems like it was taken directly from Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring. The rest of the film never manages to drum up the kind of drama or intrigue of any of the Lord of the Rings movies. It may not sound like it but, I did truly enjoy The Huntsman: Winters War. It is entertaining, and well made, just not epic. Measured expectations are important for a film like this.
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
The Huntsman: Winter's War is presented on Blu-ray in 1080p high definition with a widescreen 2.40:1 ratio. There is a bit of visual noise but it shouldn’t be too distracting to the story. Detail is good in both night and daylight. Clarity is very good. The leather armor offers a chance to see wear and tear, and both Ravenna and Freya have complex attire to admire. The film is bathed in a hue that lends itself to a specific time period and the visual quality overall helps to bring the story to life. Skin tones are even and accurate and black levels suffice. The Ultra 4K version is even better than the Blu-ray with more vibrant colors and a lot more clarity. If you have the option to get either one, I'd recommend the 4K edition hands down.
Audio (4 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Huntsman: Winter's War offers an immersive experience. The DTS X Soundtrack Dialogue is intelligible and consistent. The ambience of the forest, especially when leaves blow, makes you feel like you’re there. Music is very supportive of the drama and the action. There is little to want for in the audio department when you air the film in a fill surround sound set up.
Extras (3 out of 5 stars)
The Blu-ray features a theatrical cut and extended version with about four extra minutes in addition to the following bonus features:
  • Deleted Scenes – The following deleted scenes have an optional Director’s commentary -Freya Says Goodbye to Ravenna, Young Eric and Sara Fight, Eric Finds Passage to Hidden Forest and Freya Beats Ravenna in Chess.
  • Gag Reel – Bloopers and laughs on set.
  • Two Queens and Two Warriors - A look at how the first time director manages a star studded cast. This feature focuses on the four central characters.
  • Meet the Dwarfs – Interviews and more with the film’s dwarfs.
  • Magic All Around – A look behind the scenes at the magical elements, which included both practical and computer generated effects.
  • Dressed to Kill – Just over six minutes devoted to the costumes designed by Colleen Atwood.
  • Love Conquers All – Cast interviews with discussion about their Director and experiences with each other.
  • Audio Commentary – Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan provides feature length audio commentary. The commentary track includes interesting details and does not lag as I had feared it would with only one commentator.
Summary (3 1/2 out of 5 stars)
The Huntsman: Winter's War is a well-developed but not terribly profound film. Charlize Theron is the perfect Ravenna, scary to the core. Emily Blunt delivers both a sweet, tender Freya and a cold hearted Ice Queen. The film has humor, romance and adventure. With good video and audio quality, as well as a handful of bonus features this is a film worth purchasing. Don’t set your expectations too high as this isn’t a story written by Tolkien. It is an enjoyable film whether or not you’ve seen Snow White and the Huntsman.

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