United We Stand. Divided We Fall.

Anthony Russo
Joe Russo

Chris Evans
Robert Downey Jr
Sebastian Stan

Rather than just being a sequel to the second Captain America film, Civil War takes stock of the total impact of a world in which superheroes police the day-to-day extraordinary (an oxymoronic sentence if ever I wrote one). Steve Rogers/Captain America [Evans] is still heading Avengers taskforce operations as they seek out remaining HYDRA threats. However, after an accident in Lagos leads to civilian deaths, public outcry increases and accountability dominates every official conversation. Meanwhile, Rogers is pursuing his former colleague and best friend, Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier [Stan] hoping he can bring him in and plead his case for every offence committed while brainwashed as the Russian/HYDRA assassin. And stood in his way is a beleaguered Tony Stark [Downey Jr] who feels that oversight might not be the worst idea and with lives on the line, neither hero wants to back down.

Amazingly, the script actually improves on its comic origins (which is saying something) by making both sides completely level and arguable, rather than an obvious “Tony is the bad guy” or “Steve’s judgement is clouded”. By issue six of Civil War it was apparent that Tony (and Reed Richards) had gone too far but in the film, we never reach that threshold. Both sides have pros and cons to their standings and equally neither perspective is without fault or complication. But that’s what is so great about the writing and the state of this shared fictional universe. There’s enough development in place that we can explore these sorts of stories and arcs without events feeling rushed or forced. Much like the developing relationships in a well-written TV series, these episodic films continue to build on their eight year foundation with pleasing and satisfying gusto.

I must confess I feel bad for the writers over at Marvel. Every time a single character instalment is released people cry out, “Why don’t you just call the Avengers?” Then when the story is relevant enough to include a lot of established supporting characters (who happen to be on the Avengers roster) the same people cry, “What is this, Avengers 2.5? I thought it was a Cap film!” Yet the committee style combination of the Russos, Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely ensure that a solid standalone story is told while still servicing all the tick-box beats one would expect from a major interconnected Marvel release. Functionally, the film is great; despite being the Marvel film with the longest runtime, the pacing is so expertly executed that it really doesn’t feel it. The script isn’t bloated by excessive or unnecessary threads and while one could argue a shaving of certain scenes could condense the film a little better, the nuances of humour, friendship and philosophy are explored just enough to enhance the exposition-heavy scenes and the all-out melees. Henry Jackman has returned to the composer’s chair once again and he does a fine job but I think it lacked the identity of his previous outing.

It’s exceptionally hard to fault this film because with every new Marvel instalment we’re wading deeper into unchartered waters. The standard rules of closure, story-telling, character evolution and narrative pacing don’t necessarily apply in the same way. One could easily argue that the central narrative strut hinges too heavily on previous releases or that villains previously set up as important are dealt with in the first act but these complaints dissolve in the face of the pleasingly crafted, ever-expanding fictional universe. Using those two examples alone, the previous films just add more history and foundation to current events and while certain villains (Crossbones) aren’t given the screen-time we might have expected, this shows that things happen outside of the film’s central narrative (i.e. see the tie-in comics or short films, etc).
Even rating things like performances is quite tricky; with every new Marvel film, all we can do is break down analysis of the performances into three categories: noting continued character evolution in light of all that has passed, scrutinising the new additions and observing how elements from other standalones gel. At the centre of this story is the continued head-butting of the MCU’s main pillars. Robert Downey Jr’s Tony Stark is still dealing with the PTSD that no one seems to care about and he’s continually trying to make up for his colossal mistakes – both a rehash and full circle element to his performance and motivations in the very first MCU film. It’s a real and growing character that has endured successfully for nearly a decade without contradicting or betraying said character’s core. While Steve Rogers continues to be the uncompromising bastion of truth, justice and the American way (yep, went there) that he ought to be without being cheesy and stupid. The man is still trying to find his place while exercising the principles he believes to be unequivocally right and Evans executes it so perfectly, admirably and inspirationally. To save my wordcount, I’ve touched upon the two big new entries in my highlighted character segment below.

The only thing I could legitimately criticise is the fact that the villains are still the same. Every Marvel film seems to pit their heroes against either a crazy white guy or a monster. And while Zemo is performed well, he still adheres to the standard formula and in all honesty, initiates the same plan as Whiplash in Iron Man 2; albeit with more layers and complexity. Specifically the film returns to the nature of vengeance and how we deal with it. And yet our cultural antagonists, from folktales to film, have always reflected our cultural times and the foes we believe surround us. Rich guys in suits are disliked and untrusted by the general public and in light of global terrorism, we tend to show unity in the face of monstrosities – be they action or embodiment. Also, while I mentioned the improvements made over the source material, at the same time it doesn’t have exactly the same impact. The comic version started with a more shocking and powerful statement/incident and affected a much wider roster of characters and while the Marvel Cinematic Universe has a substantial range to juggle from (especially if one were to include the ABC and Netflix respective stables) it’s doesn’t feel as monumental as some of the threats in The Avengers or Age Of Ultron. But then maybe that’s the way it should be. Again, I keep coming back to the problem of defining how these films should be critiqued and if I’m perfectly honest, it’s quite exciting. Being a critic you get so used to formula that it’s only when something truly challenging or unique comes along that you rave about it, only for the damn thing to be rejected by the public. Marvel seems to be hitting this weird stride of pleasing the box office and critical crowds. Damn it. Was trying to make a negative point and worked it back to a pioneering compliment.

As stated, it’s very hard to find fault in this film for the combination of decent storytelling, compelling convincing acting and sheer fan-service. But having seen how horribly this film could have gone (in the form of Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice) I think we all got lucky and no matter how it might be behind the scenes, Feige’s vision for this ridiculous unparalleled cinematic achievement will be talked about and haphazardly replicated (or at least attempted) for decades. It may not be a popular statement but no matter what you think of these blockbuster films, they are genuinely changing the studio film industry.

Release Date:
29th April 2016

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Spoiler paragraph**
This may be a really odd thing to highlight in a film packed with notable scenes, performances and moments but I really liked a very simple moment during Peggy Carter’s funeral. Much like Superman, in the wrong hands, Captain America is a really annoying character; as such I’m not a fan of how he is depicted throughout most of his comic history. Having said that, one particular quote (in a Spider-Man issue, I think) sums up the character so perfectly and I’ve always loved it. That quote was interestingly reconditioned and used as a Peggy statement from beyond the grave, reminding the super soldier of who he is at his core: “Even if the whole world is telling you to move it is your duty to plant yourself like a tree, look them in the eye and say, ‘No, you move’.”

Notable Characters:
A short while ago, Marvel made the decision not to bother with origin stories anymore. It was certainly a wise choice considering the formulaic repetition and eccentric aspects from the source material. So instead they introduce a new character in a minor or supporting role in a major release, get audiences interested and hyped, then release a solo feature. And in the cases of both Spider-Man [Tom Holland], and Black Panther [Chadwick Boseman], it’s working wonders. Both were given just enough treatment to make them appealing while contributing something worthwhile to the story. No one (mainstream audiences) knew anything about Black Panther and he came away as one of the best loved characters of the film. Not to mention the fact that every time someone mentions a new Spider-Man film we roll our eyes and mutter about how sick we are of that little wall-crawler and then he swings into shot or awkwardly quips through a conversation and we wonder where he’s been this entire time. Sure, it’s ultimately a faceless business model designed to exploit audiences but it’s done so perfectly you can’t help but admire them. Also, Jim Rash effectively playing Dean Pelton was a nice touch.

Highlighted Quote:
“I remember all of them”

In A Few Words:
“Another terrific instalment in the Marvel cinematic empire. While not the best Marvel release to date it is certainly in the top five”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #165

[24 April 2016]

Winning Team:
Captain America: Quizil War
Genre – Earth’s mightiest film geeks collide over pop culture

Runners Up:
The Quill And The Dead
Genre – Fastest draw wins, the pen is mightier than the word
2B Or Not 2B
Genre – Shakespeare’s indecision at pencil choosing causes loss at Norwich film quiz
Redrum And Coke
Genre – Body Horror
Who Let George R R Martin Write 2016
Genre – The only people left alive are Jagger, Jovi and Bieber.. on second thoughts, take Bieber
Miles Behind
Genre – Miles Davies biopic: the greatest arse-blowing jazz trumpeter
Drawing Miss Daisy
Genre – Miss Daisy’s driver draws her like one of his French girls
The Spoon Collectors
Genre – Proud owners of four last-place spoons
There Will Be Ink
Genre – “I draw your milkshake”

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Lou Costello and William Abbott were better known by what alias?
2. What pet name does Gollum give the one ring in The Lord Of The Rings?
3. Who played the role of Axel Foley in Beverly Hills Cop?
4. What was the subtitle of the second JJ Abrams Star Trek film?
5. Jim Carrey played a Pet Detective in which 1994 film?
6. Which film featured the line, “I love you all and, oh, Auntie Em, there’s no place like home”?
7. Name one of the villains in Disney’s Robin Hood.
8. How many Ice Age films have been released to date (not including the upcoming Collision Course)?
9. What were the titles of the two Bond films starring Timothy Dalton? (one point per correct answer)
10. Michael Madsen played which character in Reservoir Dogs?

ROUND II: Filming [Drawing Round special]
1. Draw a spinning top from Inception.
2. Draw Captain America’s shield.
3. Draw Jaws (the shark rather than the Bond villain).
4. Draw Mike Wazowski from Monster’s Inc.
5. Draw the Batman logo (only film versions).
6. Fill in the incomplete poster for Forrest Gump.
7. Draw Wall-E.
8. Draw the Silence Of The Lambs poster.
9. Draw Eric Draven’s make-up from The Crow.
10. Draw an AT-AT Walker from the Star Wars franchise.

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. List all the Die Hard films, including subtitles. (one point per correct answer)
2. Michael Keaton starred in which 2005 horror film?
3. John Musker and Ron Clements have directed six Disney animated films (seven if you include the upcoming Moana). Name one of them.
4. V For Vendetta was released in which year?
5. The following quote is from which film, “Now witness the fire power of this fully armed and operational battle station”?
6. Heath Ledger, Orlando Bloom, Naomi Watts and Geoffrey Rush starred together in which Australian film?
7. Which production company was set up by Steven Spielberg, Kathleen Kennedy and Frank Marshall in 1981?
8. Esteban Vihaio, Rufus and Boss Koji are characters that appear in which volume of Kill Bill?
9. What is the title of Georges Melies’ iconic and most recognised silent film?
VOYAGE TO THE MOON (one point) / LA VOYAGE DANS LA LUNE (two points)
10. In Man On Fire, Pita is kidnapped after attending a music lesson. Which instrument is she learning how to play?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following was not directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet? Micmacs? Caché? A Very Long Engagement?
2. What is the title of the 1964 Japanese film about two women who kill passing samurai then sell their weapons and armour, only to be cursed by one victim’s mask? Onibaba? Gate Of Hell / Jigokumon? A Page Of Madness?
3. Which film won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1962 (34th Academy Awards)? West Side Story? To Kill A Mockingbird? Cleopatra?
4. Troy Bolton, Gabriella Montez and Sharpay Evans are characters in which film? Hannah Montana: The Movie? Camp Rock? High School Musical?
5. Which of the following has not appeared in any of The Expendables films? Kelsey Grammer? Steven Segal? Stone Cold Steve Austin?
6. The following is a quote from which film, “Newsflash Ray, we ain’t never been friends. We’ve just been stuck together for twelve years!”? The Shawshank Redemption? Cool Hand Luke? Life?
7. Who wrote the score for The Good, The Bad & The Ugly? Stelvio Cipraini? Ennio Morricone? Ludovico Einaudi?
8. The Candyman, in the film of the same name, can be summoned by saying his name into a mirror how many times? Three? Five? Seven?
9. Of all Studio Ghibli’s films, two were released on the same day. Which two? Grave Of The Fireflies & My Neighbour Totoro? Only Yesterday & Porco Rosso? Princess Mononoke & My Neighbours The Yamadas?
10. For his first five on-screen appearances Jack Nicholson was credited under his real name, James Furcillo. True or False?
FALSE (John Joseph Nicholson but always credited as Jack Nicholson)

Screenshots: Domino / Atonement / Anna Karenina
Poster: Bend It Like Beckham
Actor: Keira Knightley


The Legend Will Never Be The Same

Jon Favreau

Neel Sethi
Ben Kingsley
Idris Elba
Bill Murray

Of all the live-action Disney remakes, this is the only one that felt in any way justified. I personally feel they are a misappropriation of talent and rather than simply regurgitating the same beloved stories, we should be working on what will become a new beloved story. But in this instance, Favreau and co have done a stellar job of breathing new life into this classic tale.

For anyone who doesn’t know, The Jungle Book is the story of Mowgli [Sethi] an orphaned boy raised by wolves in the jungles of India, overseen by the panther Bagheera [Kingsley]. During a drought, Shere Khan [Elba] the Begal tiger, threatens the group stating that man does not belong in the jungle and he will return to kill him. To protect his adoptive canine family, Mowgli is taken to the man village and encounters all manner of strange characters along the way.

No matter how faithful this adaptation was to the 1967 animated film or the Rudyard Kipling book/s, people were always going to be unhappy. I believe Favreau has struck a favourable chord between the two by gelling them into something unique while still homaging and referencing the original source materials. In the process, however, it earns its PG certificate by offering us a much darker, tenser and more perilous experience than its predecessor. In doing so, this is easily Jon Favreau’s best film to date, bringing together wonderful visuals, powerful voice acting, a simple driving narrative and clear moral guidelines (stuff like that is important in a family film, otherwise you end up with infinite fart jokes or Batman v Superman). We are also treated to several interesting creative decisions that give the film a timeless feel; the lack of contemporary structures, items of clothing or technology help cement the idea that this story could have taken place at any point during the last several hundred years. Moreover making the character King Louie a giganthopithecus rather than an orangutan adds to the folktale, mythological, fable-like atmosphere.

Making a nice change of pace, this animated film has the luxury of great casting, while avoiding any weak elements. The voice acting and motion capture elements ensure that each animal character is distinctly memorable. Interestingly, not every animal can talk. At one point Mowgli even asks, “Do you have a language?” to a chirping mischievous mammal. In a nice way, this ensures that the film isn’t completely overwhelmed with voices but also amplifies that ‘far from home’ feeling during Mowgli’s journey. Speaking of which, Neel Sethi is a nice find and I’d look forward to seeing him in other releases but I imagine they’ll probably want to retain him for as many Jungle Book sequels as possible before he gets too old for the role. Ben Kingsley, Bill Murray and Idris Elba are frankly obvious choices and they perform with expected brilliance. My main areas of concern were Scarlett Johansson’s Kaa and Christopher Walken as King Louie. Interestingly, Louie becomes a much more imposing secondary villain (historically fulfilled by Kaa) and trades in his affable jazz-loving persona for a vastly powerful, ambitious head-mobster type. Kaa’s roll is significantly reduced but with a logical sense to it and while I balked at Johansson’s involvement, her alluring and hypnotic portrayal felt reminiscent of her appearance in Under The Skin and proved to be one of the more terrifying moments of the entire film.

Based on the initial trailers, it wasn’t exactly clear whether this would be a flat-out live-action reinterpretation of the Disney original or a faithful repetition. Musically speaking, it’s a bit of both. John Debney’s score fantastically utilises familiar themes as building blocks for the orchestral score and many of the iconic lyrics are reworked as spoken dialogue. Having said that, two songs remain pretty much in tact but are presented in a way that retains the fantasy element without falling into the trappings of a musical. From a visual side of things, The Jungle Book has achieved all manner of wonders. The best use of CGI is when you can’t tell there is any CGI, when you are conned into believing what you are seeing is real – let’s face it, that’s the essence of storytelling via the cinematic medium – and learning that none of the jungle was real is a true testament to talent. Too often these types of films feel like a single character wandering through a computer generated painting and they overtly stand out, ruining the effect. Thankfully this is not the case here and everything bleeds together perfectly.. well.. almost. One of the few negative points to highlight about this movie is where the current technology is pushed as far as possible and starts to come apart at the seams. On two or three occasions (not very many in a feature length film) the motion blur on Mowgli running has played havoc with the animation so a hazy line appears around his form and you start to wake from this beautiful dream and realise it’s all a lie but then the camera remains still and you’re straight back in again. Furthermore, for every interesting, novel or original shot there is one that apes from, of all things, Star Wars, Jurassic Park and The Lion King. I get there are certain methods filmmakers employ time and again to achieve a desired effect or scenario but the execution was so close that it felt blatant. I could also whine about Baloo resembling a brown bear, despite being a sloth bear but I’ll let that slide.. on account of the fact that he can talk.

Overall, this is a delightful family adventure film with clear morals about standing up for what you believe in, standing by your friends and family and the capacity for human ingenuity and harmony with the environment. At the end of the day, when it comes to family entertainment, isn’t that all we can ask for?

Release Date:
15th April 2016

The Scene To Look Out For:
**Spoiler alluded to within**
Kipling’s original Jungle Book is littered with an imperial air of “nature is something man must conquer.” It’s not always prevalent but it’s certainly present. As time has moved on, we’re now taught to preserve and respect nature and this feels much more in keeping with Indian mythology. As such, the inclusion of the elephants and specifically Mowgli’s intervention at this pit is a nice message for kids without feeling saccharine or preachy.

Notable Characters:
As mentioned earlier, there are no weak links in the cast, everyone performs expertly. One clear standout, however, is Idris Elba’s Shere Khan. The combination of animal mannerisms, Elba’s motion capture performance and his distinct voice offer an all-round terrifying and gripping villain. As a fan of the 1967 original, I love George Sanders’ sort of Gentleman Killer portrayal but there is something intensely hair-raising and memorable about Elba’s Khan.

Highlighted Quote:
“You have never been a more endangered species than you are right now”

In A Few Words:
“It’s very rare that you come across a remake that surpasses the original but The Jungle Book somehow achieves it”

Total Score:


Cinema City Film Quiz #164

[10 April 2016]

Winning Team:
Chilled Out Row-Bots
Genre – Sarah and John infiltrate Cyberdyne systems and turn all of the cyborgs into nature loving environmentalists who like rowing

Runners Up:
Silent Bumming
Genre – In the future, brutal robotic efficiency enables noiseless lovemaking
Artificially Intelligent
Genre – They thought they were intelligent, they were wrong
Jaeger Bombastic
Genre – Jaegars on jaegerbombs discover the meaning of love, from the director of Love, Actually
Give Me Nuts
Genre – Unclassified
Pacific Jim
Genre – Truman Burbank, Ace Ventura, Lloyd Christmas, The Grinch and others are programmed to fight giant monsters under the sea
Silent Punning
Genre – ….

ROUND I: Pre-Production
1. Wimbledon, starring Paul Bettany and Kirsten Dunst, is a romantic comedy that focuses on which sport?
2. The Hunger Games franchise is made up of how many instalments?
3. Which superhero is the name focus in Zack Snyder’s Man Of Steel?
4. Who directed Avatar, The Terminator and The Abyss?
5. What is the name of the villain in Disney’s Aladdin?
6. Who plays the role of Batman in Batman Begins?
7. Finish the following quote, “Houston, we…”
8. What subject does Elle study at Harvard in Legally Blonde?
9. What is the subtitle of Speed 2?
10. Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman play prisoners in which 1994 film?

ROUND II: Filming [Films With Robots special]
1. Which of the following Pixar films is about a robot? Ratatouille? A Bug’s Life? Wall-E?
2. Which comic actor starred as the robot Andrew, in Bicentennial Man? Robin Williams? Mike Myers? Steve Martin?
3. What is the serial number of the SAINT unit which gains sentience after being struck by lightning (sort of), in Short Circuit? 5? CC01? 3.14159?
4. Which of the following autobots does not feature in the first Transformers film? Ironhide? Ratchet? Sideswipe?
5. What colour are Sonny’s eyes, making him distinguishable from the other robots, in I, Robot? Blue? Green? Yellow?
6. The Iron Giant is set in which decade? 1930’s? 1940’s? 1950′?
7. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “Humanity’s last hope isn’t human”? Terminator 3: Rise Of The Machines? Inspector Gadget? Chappie?
8. Blade Runner is set in which year? 2017? 2019? 2021?
9. Caleb, Nathan and Ava are characters in which film? A.I. Artificial Intelligence? Ex Machina? Sky Captain And The World Of Tomorrow?
10. 1973’s Westworld was directed by author Michael Crichton. True or False?

ROUND III: Post-Production
1. Which film starred Colin Firth, Tom Hardy, John Hurt and Benedict Cumberbatch?
2. Who composed the score for the Lord Of The Rings trilogy?
3. How many times has Keira Knightley worked with director Joe Wright?
THREE (Pride & Prejudice, Atonement, Anna Karenina)
4. The following quote is from which film, “I know who you are Peter Quill and I am not some starry-eyed waif here to succumb to your pelvic sorcery”?
5. Slumdog Millionaire was released in which year?
6. The plot of Guy Ritchie’s Snatch centres on which type of stolen jewel?
7. What is the name of Ben Affleck’s character in Gone Girl?
NICK (Dunne)
8. The following is the poster tagline for which film, “The future belongs to the mad”?
9. How many raptors is Owen training in Jurassic World?
FOUR (Blue, Delta, Charlie, Echo)
10. In Disney’s Peter Pan, the lost boy Slightly dresses in a onesie representing which animal?

ROUND IV: Promotion & Release
1. Which of the following actors has starred in the most films (feature films released to date, including cameos and voice work)? Michelle Pfeiffer? Whoopi Goldberg? Jodie Foster?
WHOOPI GOLDBERG (Goldberg 63, Pfeiffer and Foster 42)
2. The Sisterhood Of The Traveling Pants was released in which year? 2000? 2005? 2010?
3. Which of the following lines is not in Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar? True love lasts a lifetime? I love you forever, you hear me. I love you forever? Love is the one thing we’re capable of perceiving that transcends time and space?
TRUE LOVE LASTS A LIFETIME (from Love, Actually)
4. Leonardo DiCaprio appeared in two films released in 2013, which of the following was not one of them (based on UK release dates)? The Wolf Of Wall Street? The Great Gatsby? Django Unchained?
5. Which song does Rick expressly forbid being played in his club, in Casablanca? We’ll Meet Again? As Time Goes By? Die Wacht Am Rhein?
6. What was the original title of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty? Manhunt? Black Site? For God And Country?
7. In Enter The Dragon, how often does Han hold his martial arts tournament to expand his criminal business? Every year? Every 3 years? Every 5 years?
8. Which Star Trek film was directed by William Shatner? Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country? Star Trek V: The Final Frontier? Star Trek III: The Search For Spock?
9. Who played the role of Allison in The Breakfast Club? Jennifer Grey? Ally Sheedy? Molly Ringwald?
10. Of the original trilogy, the AT-AT walker only features in The Empire Strikes Back. True or False?
FALSE (also Return Of The Jedi)

Screenshots: Independence Day / The Grand Budapest Hotel / The Prince Of Egypt
Poster: Annie Hall
Actor: Jeff Goldblum


The Story Before Snow White

Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Chris Hemsworth
Jessica Chastain
Emily Blunt
Charlize Theron

Once upon a time, four years ago, Universal released a gritty live-action adaptation of the Snow White fairy tale. Visually striking but narratively hollow, the real surprise was the ropey acting delivered by talented individuals. It was received mildly but was overshadowed by an affair between the lead actress and the director and lo, time forgot about the release. Subsequently, I was rather surprised to learn Universal were marching ahead with their prequel story focusing on The Huntsman character, played by Chris Hemsworth. Some areas have been improved upon, others have sadly fallen by the wayside but all-in-all, it’s a bit meh.

Years before the events of Snow White And The Huntsman, Queen Ravena [Theron] ruled her kingdom with her sister Freya [Blunt] by her side but after a scandalous affair ends in pregnancy, Ravena warns Freya that love is a lie and her suitor will betray her. Sure enough, Freya finds her lover beside a smoking crib and shocked by this terrible act, unleashes a hitherto unknown magical ice force. Believing love is a sin, she moves north and establishes her own kingdom, ransacking villages and kidnapping children to train as her loyal army. Among these children are Eric [Hemsworth] and Sara [Chastain]. As they grow, they prove themselves noteworthy combatants and continue to bring her victory in the north. But as their strength grows, so too does their affection for one another; a crime in Freya’s kingdom. Once they are discovered, Sara is killed and Eric left for dead. Then the film quickly establishes that the events of Snow White And The Huntsman takes place and the story picks up there. At which point the audience is left a little bewildered, muttering, “Wait, what?”

I don’t know if this feature was always part of the grand design, based on the final shots of Snow White And The Huntsman, it’s arguable that it was considered. But even then, everything established here is extremely lazy, rife with afterthoughts and contradiction. First of all you have this unheard of sister and the fact that the entire prequel element takes place during the opening narration of the last film. Secondly, despite the marketing, you quickly come to realise that this is in fact both a prequel and a sequel; and the twenty or thirty minutes to bring us up to speed is led by heavy-handed narration making everything feel extremely rushed. And then there’s the myriad of absent characters which highlights how forced this film is.

Acting-wise, Winter’s War shows an improvement but still gives all those involved less to do. Hemsworth’s performance as Eric – I don’t know if he actually had a name last time round – works well enough and feels less drab than in Snow White And The Huntsman. Unfortunately, he is still rather two dimensional but the roguish charm sees him through. Chastain also performs decently but suffers from that insipid perpetuation of the strong female warrior; for some reason screenwriters have real issue writing decent female roles without making them either excessively fierce or abrasive. The overall effect is admittedly fine just boring. The Ice Queen demonstrates some interesting motivation and Blunt does well to squeeze what she can out of it but by the film’s culmination, the obviousness of the twist really only serves to demonstrate how much of a puppet she has been from start to end. Theron’s return would have been a nice reveal if it wasn’t one of the main marketing points and even then I would have been concerned as the level of ham on display in the last film was abhorrent. Thankfully, Theron dialed it back and we’re left with a pleasing supporting role. In my last review I praised the character design for the dwarves – from a visual standpoint only – as there was no proportionary uncanny valley or overt green-screen moments. Having said that, the characters themselves were arse-water. There was never any need to do anything other than cast real dwarves but for some reason (*cough* money *cough*) it was decided better known actors would be more fitting. Nick Frost was the only one to return, meaning we got three new dwarves, none of whom offer anything new except for a weird love dynamic that sticks to the old “only attracted to your own kind” thing. Having said that, the interracial love angle felt really weird in The Hobbit, so who knows? The real character of note was actually the notable absence of Kristen Stewart; the title character of the other film, she is referenced a fair amount but fails to make an appearance (save a reverse shot of a double) leaving the whole endeavour feeling pointless and disconnected.

The production design is very impressive and carries a lot of this release’s success. From the costume work, to the hair, make-up and set design, everything is rich with detail and life. There’s also a slightly lighter air to proceedings and one would argue, as far as the sequel section is concerned, that’s how it should be, what with Snow White’s reign restoring.. the balance.. or hope.. or whatever her being on the throne achieved. Yet, in the hands of this new creative team, Winter’s War feels somehow aesthetically different; there’s a distinct loss of visual flare. Say what you want about Rupert Sanders’ actions off-camera, he had a knack for exciting and dramatic visual sequences. Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, his replacement, does a commendable job but it’s all very vanilla and paint-by-numbers, never really bringing anything new or thrilling to the mix.

Much like its predecessor, the story is chained to the trappings of the fairytale genre, which utilises simply drawn characters, motivations and scenarios but leaves the whole proceeding feeling incredibly formulaic. The basic dialogue is beyond weak and some of the one-liners are amazingly atrocious. Furthermore, with little actual plot per se, the nearly two hour slog boils down to little more than a trek from A to B punctuated with fairly uninspired action/fight sequences. And yet there are hints of promising storytelling and filmmaking. Case in point, the ice-wall twist actually works rather well but the script doesn’t have the intellectual chops to play it up properly and a good concept is largely wasted.

This film’s ultimate sin is that it is insufferably bland. The groundwork laid in the last film wasn’t strong enough to support another outing and while it’s not overly offensive to the senses, it’s not worth seeking out either. The real frustration is that this film went through countless stages of production, attracted talented people and churned out something so horribly mediocre. Honestly, is this is the best one can do with Hemsworth, Chastain, Blunt, Theron, Frost and Brydon? I can’t imagine there will be another instalment but then I half-thought that about Snow White And The Huntsman, so I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

Release Date:
8th April 2016

The Scene To Look Out For:
Sitting, writing this review, I honestly couldn’t think of a highlighted scene. I thought back on the movie and tried to hone in on anything overly terrible or praiseworthy and drew a blank. I suppose, as I stated earlier, the ice wall sequence and the ramifications of said sequence are quite interesting but a combination of trailers and piss-poor writing undermines anything of use there.

Notable Characters:
My highlighted character is actually someone who’s missing. The choice to leave out Snow White could be argued well enough, especially in sequel territory but when a pivotal role is absent from the prequel, it’s just weird and frankly terrible writing. In the last film, Queen Ravena’s right hand is her creepy albino brother, Finn, played by the equally creepy Sam Spruell. This guy is depicted as a child during Ravena’s backstory and continues to lead her dark army as her power grows, then some bad shit happens and he dies. Finn is the brother of both Ravena and now Freya but neither mentioned nor referenced throughout this film at all. I don’t know why he was abandoned or not considered for a recasting but of all the absences, this is the weirdest. And this is why you need to think this shit through when writing your stories, people! In a section designed to focus on a standout performance, I’ve waffled on about someone who isn’t even in this film!

Highlighted Quote:
“Poor widower. That story must have wet the eyes of many a young woman.. maybe more than their eyes”

In A Few Words:
“A rather dispassionate, dull release that, while containing a few glimmers of potential, largely flounders around aimlessly”

Total Score: