This prequel/sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman smacks of cynical profiteering; visually stunning design it’s poorly served by a script that is Snow White’s not-so-Greatest hits with leftover bits of Narnia and assorted Hobbitses.
Clichéd, formulaic and derivative, this bargain-bin script is left without a Snow White and can only afford four fairly redundant dwarfs.
Plotted, if you can call it that, around the theft of the Magic Mirror from the previous movie, now a sort of One Ring embodiment of evil. Huntsman Eric (Hemsworth – Thor, Rush) is on a mission to retrieve it before the dark forces of his former employer can use it to take over the world – quite how is never made clear, despite the unseen Liam Neeson’s (Taken, Chloe) gravelly voiceover explaining the stupid plot every fifteen minutes in the most irritating bit of Basil Exposition in years. It’s the hallmark of the laziest kind of film-making undermining what is clearly a huge production.
Charlize Theron (Prometheus, The Road) is back in imperious camp form as resurrected evil queen Ravenna, this time aided and abbetted by a chilly younger sister Freya (Emily Blunt – Edge of Tomorrow) as the Ice Queen.
While Chris Hemsworth as the titlular Huntsman (with duff Scots accent) is clearly having taking his fun, and a fat paycheck, where he can find it, Jessica Chastain (Interstellar, Crimson Peak) is clearly not having a blast as fellow Huntswoman Sarah. As Eric’s compatriot, somebody forced Chastain to an even worse Scots accent that roams all over the Celtic world and off into the Southern Hemisphere.
Adding the only bit of spark to this nonsense is TV and Broadway’s Sheridan Smith as a testy female dwarf bandit, with Alexandra Roach as her kindly partner in crime. Returnee dwarf Nick Frost (Paul, World’s End) is joined by Rob Brydon, and the four of them are relegated to almost useless comedy sidekicks. Come back Hoskins, McShane, Marsan et al.
The biggest issue in the Huntsman world is that all three of our female leads are written as embittered, neurotic, psychotic, psychopathic women with abandonment issues, a distinct loathing of men, and a warped or non-existant idea of motherhood extending into habitual betrayal, abuse, torture and mass-murder.
Anything Maleficent can do, they can do worse. Ideal female role models for the twenty-first century. It’s definitely a post-Post-Feminist world. Or pre- …
Otherwise it’s standard big-budget Hollywood fare for a generic action/fantasy blockbuster that lacks any of the coherence of the original and settles merely for a procession of hackneyed dialogue to make Jupiter Ascending look like a masterwork; and CGI set-pieces that exist only to wake us up after the dull, talky bits.
A violent and sweary top-end 12A certificate doesn’t help, and pandering to teenage boys and the Chinese market doesn’t excuse cynical by-the-numbers (that’s box office numbers) approach to movie-making . But at least it’s not Mirror, Mirror or another Michael Bay movie. RC
The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016)
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Writers: Craig Mazin, Evan Spiliotopoulos
Running time: 1 hr. 54 min.
Genre: Drama, Action, Adventure, Fantasy
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, Alexandra Roach, Sam Calflin, Colin Morgan,