The Huntsman: Winter's War
Intermittently successful follow-up to the 2012 fairytale, featuring an all-star cast
After her well-publicised affair with married director Rupert Sanders, during the making of 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, Kristen Stewart has clearly been banished to a tower in a faraway land. But fair play to the team behind the follow-up, a prequel / sequel that manages to wrap another story around Snow White’s, without need for a Stewart cameo. This time, the focus is on Chris Hemsworth’s Eric, exploring how he became a Huntsman.
As we soon learn, Eric grew up under the tutelage of Freya (Emily Blunt), sister to the evil Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron), who was dispatched by Snow White in the original movie. Nursing the loss of her own baby, Freya has ensconced herself in an ice palace (yes, she can do the whole Frozen ice-chucking thing) and raised an army of Huntsmen instead. But when Eric falls in love with fellow Hunts-person Sara (Jessica Chastain), the embittered Freya splits the two apart.
Directed by debutant Cedric Nicolas-Troyan – second unit director / visual effects supervisor on the film’s predecessor – the story intricately winds past and present together, as Eric goes in search of the Magic Mirror that still holds Ravenna’s evil. Joining him are four dwarves – Nion (Nick Frost, the only returnee from the original), his half-brother Gryff (Rob Brydon) and female dwarves Doreena (Alexandra Roach) and Mrs Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith).
The dwarf quartet are hilarious and the visuals are lovely (grass-covered snakes and turtles are a particular delight), yet this is somewhat outweighed by sluggish action and Hemsworth and Chastain’s grating Celtic accents. At least Theron’s still-bonkers Ravenna livens up proceedings when she finally makes her re-entrance, even if the last act feels rather lacking in high-stakes. Some fairytales ‘never truly end’ intones Liam Neeson’s narrator – unfortunately, this franchise feels like it has indeed run its course.
General release from Fri 8 Apr.