Once upon a time there was a movie called “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Starring Hollywood princesses Kristen Stewart and Charlize Theron, it was a dark reimagining of the classic story that played like the love child of the Brothers Grimm and “The Hobbit” with two compelling characters, warrior Snow White and the villainous Ravenna.
Another film was inevitable, but how do you make a sequel when KStew busy making art films and Ravenna didn’t make it to the end credits? Easy, you rehire Theron, play mix and match “Frozen” and “Game of Thrones” and hope for the best.
“The Huntsman: Winter’s War“ begins its confusing journey as a prequel. Ravenna (Theron) is alive and well, a Grand Guiginol vision of a fairy tale Queen. Despite her best efforts sister Freya (Emily Blunt) refuses to embrace their evil birthright, choosing instead to start a family. When tragedy strikes the formerly good-natured princess finds her wicked power, morphing into the Winter Queen, whose icy glare can freeze kingdoms. The only things missing are Olaf and a show tune or two.
In her frigid northern empire she raises a child army of orphans called the Huntsmen (even though they’re not all boys or men). Elsa’s… er… Freya’s warriors are forbidden to love. They must let it go. “In my kingdom there is one rule do not love,” she says. “It is in a sin I will not forgive.” When Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) fall hard for one another and plan to elope, Freya goes to extraordinary and cruel lengths to ensure they live happily never after.
Cut to seven years later. The movie is now into sequel territory. Snow White (who is glimpsed only briefly) has defeated Ravenna and now needs Eric to locate the Magic Mirror and ensure it is never used for evil. Cue the goblins, a few hi ho hi ho’s provided by Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach and more CGI than you can throw an enchanted mirror at.
I’m not sure what to call “The Huntsman: Winter’s War.“ It’s not a sequel or a prequel and yet it is both. Officially I suppose we’re supposed to call it a “sprequel”; I call it bloated, confusing and worst of all, dull. You would think that any movie featuring Emily Blunt riding a polar bear would be great fun but you’d be wrong. From the half hour of narration that opens the story to the cavalcade of CGI and bad accents—Hemsworth and Chastain easily beat Kevin Costner for worst-ever cinematic British Isles burrs—to sloppy storytelling, this is a grim, not Brothers Grimm tale.
Bad accent aside Hemsworth brings some swagger to the role of Eric, Chastain tries to keep a straight face and sidekicks Frost, Brydon, Smith and Roach create a badly needed sense of fun to the proceedings. Blunt isn’t given much to do, aside from her rather stunning entrance in the polar bear but Theron actually disappoints. In the first film she’s a hoot, a bundle of bad intentions gathered up in one pretty package. Here she’s not the same figure of malicious amusement but oddly disconnected and not nearly as much fun.
Over long “The Huntsman: Winter’s War“ drones on for almost two hours until the narrator (Liam Neeson) reappears. As his dulcet tones close the movie with something to the effect of the story may be over “but fairy talks never end,” it doesn’t seem so much like an ending as it does a threat that they might make a sequel to this mess.