The marketing for “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” is quite misleading. The follow-up to 2012’s “Snow White and the Huntsman,” a gritty, more action-y retelling of the classic fairytale, appears to be a prequel as opposed to a sequel. Turns out, it’s both, and more the latter than the former.
Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, the film begins many years before the events of the first movie. Charlize Theron returns as the evil queen Ravenna, and it turns out she has a sister, Freya (Emily Blunt). When Freya’s lover supposedly kills their daughter, Freya’s dormant ice powers are unleashed. Feeling betrayed and bereft of the child she was supposed to raise, she decides to raise an army instead—an army of children who will serve her in taking over all the neighboring kingdoms. There is one big rule: they are not allowed to love.
Years pass and the children grow up. One of those children, of course, is Eric (Chris Hemsworth), the huntsman who served Snow White in the first movie. He falls in love with fellow warrior Sara (Jessica Chastain), but their forbidden love is soon found out, leading Eric to be left for dead, believing that Sara has been killed.
This part of the film doesn’t last too long. It’s then that the story jumps forward seven years, past the events of “Snow White and the Huntsman,” and becomes a sequel to that film. The magic mirror has gone missing, and Snow White (who, by the way, is not present in this film) wants Eric to find it and bring it to a sanctuary where no one can use its powers. But Freya, who has only grown more powerful, especially after the death of Ravenna, wants it too. With the assistance of a couple of dwarves, Nion (Nick Frost) and Gryff (Rob Brydon) Eric sets out to find it before she does.
“The Huntsman” does nothing to elevate itself above a generic action fantasy. The first film wasn’t great, but at least some aspects of it could be praised for creativity. This movie has none of that. There isn’t anything exciting about the action scenes, which aren’t very gritty or realistic but also aren’t over-the-top enough to be fun. The costumes and visuals are nice, but often a tad too dreary. There is some humor at least, all derived from the dwarf characters, particularly the brash female dwarf Mrs. Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith). Some of the jokes work, but a lot of it feels forced.
It’s really a shame that the characters are so uninteresting as well, given the massively talented cast involved. Hemsworth does a poor man’s Thor. Chastain makes a weak attempt at a Scottish accent. Blunt monotones most of her lines in what is supposed to be a malicious whisper. Theron does make a great evil queen, but as this movie isn’t so much about her character, she is under-utilized as well, and by the time she does appear it feels like it’s just a last-ditch effort to make the underwhelming plot a bit more, well, whelming. With the exception of Smith and Brydon, none of the characters have any real chemistry. Frost perhaps comes out faring the best, but even he isn’t given much great material to work with.
It’s probably difficult to make a sequel to a film that isn’t so great in the first place, especially when the main character can’t make an appearance. But there’s no attempt here to create a new and exciting villain, or to give an interesting backstory to a character who has always been a supporting player in Snow White’s tale. And when there’s no care given to the story, it’s nearly impossible for the audience to care too.
Runtime: 114 minutes. Rated PG-13 for fantasy action violence and some sensuality.
Check out showtimes for this movie and more at the following St. Louis-area theaters:
- Wehrenberg Theatres
- AMC Theatres
- Regal Movie Theatres
- Galleria 6
- Chase Park Plaza
- Moolah Theatre
- Hi-Pointe Theatre
- St. Andrews Cinema
- Plaza Frontenac Cinema
- Tivoli Theatre