Before the events of Snow White and the Huntsman, Ravenna (Charlize Theron) tried to coax the magic from her kinder sister Freya (Emily Blunt), without any luck. When the love of Freya’s life betrays her, her magical powers are revealed, and she sets out to make her own kingdom, training an army of child soldiers – or Huntsmen – two of whom are Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and his secret love Sara (Jessica Chastain). When things take a turn for the dark, Eric and Sara set out to stop Freya from gaining the ultimate evil power.
So there have been rumours of a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman for many a moon, with Kristen Stewart first confirmed then unconfirmed to reprise her role – spoiler; Stewart is not among the cast of this film – and Frank Darabont signing on to direct the film, before passing the torch to first time director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan. Although The Huntsman: Winter’s War is billed as being a sequel, magic and mystery intervene to make sure we get the sequel that we were promised.
Chris Hemsworth reprises his role as Eric the Huntsman, and does OK with the role to a point, but a tonal shift halfway through the film seriously undermines the character. Charlize Theron also returns, and eschews her shouty performance from the first film, opting instead to whisper all of her lines in a sexy ‘evil’ way that is fine, but does nothing to develop any sense of character. Emily Blunt takes on the role of Freya the Evil Ice Queen and channels her inner Elsa in setting herself up in an ice palace, but follows Theron’s lead in the whispering stakes, and the script takes her character on a journey that is muddled and unsatisfying. Jessica Chastain struggles with a Scottish accent throughout the film, playing a warrior with a heart, and elsewhere, Nick Frost turns up as comic relief, joined by Sheridan Smith, Rob Brydon and Alexandra Roach; none of whom really get a chance to do anything of note.
Screenwriters Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin try to carry on the film from the end of Snow White and the Huntsman, but they are in new territory here, and trying to introduce the ice queen into the story feels clunky and doesn’t always marry with the tone of the film. As well as this, adding in the elements of the original story means that the film is full of odd tonal shifts, and none of the characters are fleshed out enough to have us root for them.
In terms of direction, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan seems to equate evil with sexy whispering, meaning that two of Hollywood’s strongest actresses – Blunt and Theron – are reduced to playing characters that feel as though they have fallen out of a commercial for soft porn. As well as this, the accents in the film are a mess, the comedy poorly timed and, although the action is fast paced, it doesn’t get the audience’s heart rate up as we have no-one to root for. On the positive side, the costumes are simply glorious – particularly those of Blunt and Theron – but then this leaves Theron feeling as though she is back in her Dior ad campaign and Blunt sometimes struggles to act through the layers of jewellery she is saddled with.
In all, The Huntsman: Winter’s War struggles with many things; the film tries to be a prequel and a sequel, tries to be a drama fused with a comedy, tries to be an action film fused with a love story, and fails on all counts. The script is littered with terrible dialogue and this, combined with some dodgy accents, does the actors a disservice, leaving The Huntsman: Winter’s War a bloated, boring mess.