The Huntsman: Winter's War

Posted by Joel Copling on March 30, 2016

One can feel the screenplay for "The Huntsman: Winter's War" straining for some connection to its predecessor. If 2012's "Snow White and the Huntsman" suffered from pallid, soggy storytelling, at least its part-prequel, part-sequel follow-up suffers from different problems. The star of the older film and its director were barred from the project after a scandal, and it's clear that the treatment of a potential follow-up is squandered by the ways in which Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin have written themselves into a corner. This is fundamentally static stuff on a dramatic level because the character central to its mythology is missing. The storytelling here suffers as a result.

For here is the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth, a sturdy presence), who gets a name during the extended prologue that tells us of his upbringing but to whom it seems more prudent to refer as his feared title of sorts. He was a child whose parents fell to a corrupt regime and who was then forced to be part of its militaristic, nationalist fervor as a youth. Over here is Sara (Jessica Chastain, saddled with an unfortunate accent), who received the same upbringing and fell in love with the Huntsman eventually, becoming a precise archer. The two fall victim to that regime in the form of a queen who has outlawed any act of love and who manipulates the situation so that Sara and the Huntsman must part for a period of time.

The events of the film's predecessor take place within those seven years, and then the two lovebirds reunite. Still, there's that queen, who, by the way, is named Freya (Emily Blunt, breathy and acting with icy-blue contacts). She once loved and believes the feeling betrayed her in the form of a murdered infant. She became the Ice Queen, which is exactly what it sounds like. Her older sister Ravenna (Charlize Theron), recently defeated by Snow White, returns in a uselessly convoluted way for a climax that consists of the actress making a lot of crazy faces while activating CG weaponry and yelling. Both threads, basically, devolve into overt melodrama played against the backdrop of silly dinner-theater.

Snow White, meanwhile, remains offscreen, making orders (Sam Claflin pointedly returns as her beau William, who here acts as her proxy) and generally having a more significant role in the proceedings than a nonexistent character should be asked to perform. What fills the gap is, at least, competent (Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and cinematographer Phedon Papamichael have crafted an attractive-looking spectacle, though what action there is gets lost in frenetic editing) and mostly harmless (though a subplot involving Nick Frost and Rob Brydon as dwarves finding love with others played by Alexandra Roach and Sheridan Smith could have been excised). "The Huntsman: Winter's War" does nothing all that interesting--which is meant as both a sigh of relief and a shrug of indifference.

Film Information

Chris Hemsworth (The Huntsman), Jessica Chastain (Sara), Emily Blunt (Freya), Charlize Theron (Ravenna), Nick Frost (Nion), Rob Brydon (Gryff), Sheridan Smith (Bromwyn), Alexandra Roach (Doreena), Sam Claflin (William), Sope Dirisu (Tull).

Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan and written by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin.

Rated PG-13 (fantasy action violence, sensuality).

114 minutes.

Released on April 22, 2016.