Although I enjoyed Snow White and the Huntsman, the 2012 adaptation/re-envisioning of the classic Snow White story, I can’t say I liked it enough that I was expecting, let alone eagerly anticipating, a sequel. Nevertheless, the gods of Hollywood deemed it necessary and so this week The Huntsman: Winter’s War hits theaters, and if you are wondering why Snow White is not in the title, it’s because she’s absent from the film as well.
As if the plots of these films were not already convoluted enough, what with trying to keep straight whose sister’s daughter hexed whose wife’s brother’s King with which Queen’s mean-spirted mirror, The Huntsman: Winter’s War tries to be both a prequel and a sequel to the original film; but neither timeframe works very well and you are apt to be scratching your head in confusion of the narrative.
In this fairy tale land – which encompasses (the missing) Snow White, the dwarfs, goblins, witches and all manner of mystical creatures – the evil sorceress Ravenna (Charlize Theron) learns from that infamous troublemaking mirror that her sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), has a baby that will grow up to be more “fair” than her, so she has her sibling’s lover kill the child, which triggers Freya’s ice manipulation powers.
The younger sister swears off love and builds a kingdom of her own in the northern territories where her army captures kids and raises them to be killers (i.e. Huntsmen), including Eric (Chris Hemsworth), the Huntsman hero from the first film.
Eric falls in love with a Huntswoman named Sara (Jessica Chastain), but Freya will have none of that going on during her cold-hearted reign. So she convinces Eric that Sara is dead, and Sara that Eric has deserted her, and the two live in heartbreak that they have lost their true love.
Clumsily fast-forward several years, right past the events in the first movie, and Ravenna is dead, the unseen Snow White is having mental issues and the magic mirror has been stolen by gorilla-like goblins.
Eric is tasked with recovering the mirror before it falls into Freya’s icy fingers and he’s accompanied by the dwarfs Nion (Nick Frost from the first film), Gryff (Rob Brydon), Mrs. Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith) and Doreena (Alexandra Roach.)
Will the heroes find the mirror? Is Sara really dead? Will Ravenna come back to life? Will those lovable dwarfs hook-up? You can most likely guess the correct answer to each of those burning questions.
Hemsworth, Chastain, Theron and Blunt are all fine given the rather weak material they have to work with, although Hemsworth & Chastain (and the dwarf characters) waver unconvincingly in and out of what I think is supposed to be an Irish accent. And I’m preeetty sure that Snow White is a German folktale, but Chastain does have that fiery red hair, so, you know…could be Irish.
On the plus side, like the first film, there are some very cool animal creatures in this movie which are rendered quite well by director and former visual effects wizard, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. Unfortunately it’s pretty easy to tell that this is his first foray into feature film directing.
Outside of the fun animals and a couple of decent action sequences The Huntsman: Winter’s War is mostly a mediocre malevolent mirror movie that is far from being the fairest of the now well-worn fractured fairy-tale genre. Grade: 4/10
Photos © 2016 – Universal Pictures