The Huntsman: Winter’s War
by George Wolf
A magical young princess leaves her sister’s side amid some heavy emotional trauma, taking her cold heart to a frozen environment and staking her claim as the Ice Queen. This one, though, has no interest in building a snowman.
Winter’s War is both prequel and sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, the competent fantasy drama from 2012. You might wonder about the need for another film in this franchise, but it’s hard to argue with the cast.
Chris Hemsworth is back as Eric the Hunstman, along with Jessica Chastain as his beloved Sara and Charlize Theron’s evil Queen Ravenna. Theron was easily the best thing about the first film, and adding the great Emily Blunt as Ravenna’s chilly sister Freya seems like a pretty safe play.
Yeah, um, about that…
Blunt’s unbeaten streak of onscreen chemistry with every living human ends here, as she and Theron can’t get their considerable talents to gel. Instead, Blunt’s “love is evil” act and Theron’s power-mad malevolence wander into a curiously campy section of the castle.
How can you put two actors of this caliber side by side, and end up with scenes this dull?
Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyen is a visual effects veteran making his feature debut, and he seems much more confident presenting Eric and Sara’s woodland journey to recover the magical mirror, mirror no longer on the wall.
The film’s first act is nearly insufferable, ploddingly paced and weighted by exposition shared via the buttery (if uncredited) voice of Liam Neeson.
Things pick up midway as the adventure proper begins, but Nicolas-Troyden and cast stumble again as their tale comes to a close. Though it often looks fantastic, Winter’s War is uneven at best, with a mishmash of ideas that barely hold together, and cannot capture attention.
Worse still, it is an unforgivable waste of three of the most talented women working in film today.
If you harbor a mad desire to see the film, you may want to let it go.