The Huntsman: Winter's War, film review - caricatured and poorly written

(12A)​ Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, 117 mins, starring: Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain

Geoffrey Macnab@TheIndyFilm
Wednesday 06 April 2016 18:13
Emily Blunt stars as Freya, The Ice Queen and Charlize Theron plays her evil sister Ravenna
Emily Blunt stars as Freya, The Ice Queen and Charlize Theron plays her evil sister Ravenna

Mirror, mirror on the wall, what’s the silliest film of them all? The Huntsman sequel must come close. It’s a half-baked mish-mash of a movie with ingredients taken from Disney’s Frozen, Tolkein, Game Of Thrones and the brothers Grimm, and with a bit of Wagnerian bombast added for good measure. The performances here are spirited enough in a rollicking Hackney Empire Christmas pantomime, now I see you, now I don’t, sort of a way. It is the premise and the plotting that really drag The Huntsman down.

As the film starts, sweethearts Eric The Huntsman (Hemsworth) and Sara, The Warrior (an impressively buffed up and Amazonian-looking Jessica Chastain) are split apart by Freya, The Ice Queen (Emily Blunt) an unhappy sort herself who has a nasty habit of freezing anybody who falls in love behind her back. The real villainess of the piece is Freya’s even more evil sister Ravenna (Charlize Theron). She seemed to die in the first movie, Snow White And The Huntsman, but re-materialises in gold lamé here. Confusingly, this is a prequel as much as a sequel. Snow White herself (played by Kristen Stewart in the first movie) is nowhere it be seen.

Impressively buffed up: Jessica Chastain plays Sara, The Warrior © Universal Pictures

The filmmakers throw together fairy tale elements and bloodcurdling action scenes in an utterly random fashion. The result is a film likely to be too dark and violent for a young audience and far too soppy for teenagers. By far the best scenes are those involving Hemsworth, Chastain and their dwarf accomplices venturing into a forest to recover the missing mirror. The male dwarves (Rob Brydon, Nick Frost) get most of the best lines. Their burgeoning romance with two female dwarves (Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach) who first snare them and then spent most of the rest of the movie scolding them, is handled with a wit that the rest of the film lacks. As the young lovers, Hemsworth and Chastain express their affection by saving each others’ lives and by bickering like an old married couple whenever the fighting stops.

Chris Hemsworth plays Eric The Huntsman who falls in love with Sara, The Warrior (Jessica Chastain) © Universal Pictures

It is dismaying to see actors off the quality of Chastain, Theron and Blunt mugging it up in such caricatured and poorly written roles. Theron, in particular, comes out badly in an utterly absurd and overwrought final reel.

Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan is best known for his visual effects work. He indulges in some impressive feats of cinematic prestidigitation here, conjuring up minotaur-like monsters and elfin wood nymphs. Whenever Freya loses her temper, rivers turn to ice or glacial walls appear from nowhere. It is just a pity that he was so busy with the VFX that he never stopped to look in the mirror and to ask what on earth the film was supposed to be about.

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