By Thomas Simpson
The success of Snow White and The Huntsman had Universal Pictures greenlight a sequel within months of its release. A love scandal involving director Rupert Sanders and star Kristen Stewart caused the intended story to be shelved taking the series in a new direction with a director. The Huntsman: Winter’s War was announced as a prequel/sequel that would concentrate on Chris Hemsworth’s Eric while Stewart’s Snow White would be notable by her onscreen absence.
Despite being billed as a prequel, the majority of the film takes place after the events of the first film with the first 20 minutes being nothing more than a glorified prologue. Plot points are rushed over to introduce two new players in the Ice Queen (Emily Blunt) and Sara (Jessica Chastain). It gives some much needed backstory but the frenetic pace in which it’s told could have benefited from a gentler approach. It only serves to skip over the first film and have audiences concentrate on this one, sans Stewart.
The plot is weak, as Eric is tasked with tracking down the Magic Mirror that has been stolen. It’s overblown and hammy with some cheesy dialogue. It’s also a lot of fun. The script is full of wit with a few one-liners to help lighten the tone of a visually striking but dark film. Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan doesn’t skimp on the action allowing excitement to trump the predictability of the story.
There isn’t any great revelations in Winter’s War and anyone that’s seen the trailer will have seen the basic skeleton of the film. Fans of the previous installment may feel stiffed that Snow White has been relegated to the background, but if you’re after a strong female hero then Sara more than fills that role. Chastain is as alluring as she is dangerous, never shying from a fight and proves to be a match for Eric. There’s no denying Hemsworth’s natural charm and although he doesn’t have to stretch acting talent too much here, his natural likeability makes it easy to invest in his Huntsman even if there’s no depth to the character.
The personal issues of the talent gave the studio a headache with regards to a followup first time around, however poor reviews and a lackluster box office may make their decision to, or not to as it may be, progress with a third entry a little easier. It isn’t the epic fantasy series that some may have hoped for but The Huntsman: Winter’s War is energetic popcorn fodder that puts a spin on a well-known fairy tale.