You’re forgiven if you didn’t see, or just hardly remember, 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman. The film certainly had its moments: Solid visuals, likable actors as the seven dwarves, and Charlize Theron as the wicked queen. But, the always melancholy Kristen Stewart in the lead role was a mistake as she made the film feel much more dull than it should’ve been. An unwarranted love triangle between Snow White (Stewart), the Prince (Hunger Games’ Sam Claflin), and the heroic Huntsman (Thor’s Chris Hemsworth) didn’t help either. So, Universal Pictures decided to do the only logical Hollywood logical thing and give us a sequel/prequel void of Kristen Stewart.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War covers events before and after its 2012 predecessor, in a story revolving around all of the major returning cast. The plot predominantly focuses on The Ice Queen Freya (loosely based on the same fairy tale character that inspired Frozen’s Elsa), played amicably by Emily Blunt. Sister to Evil Queen Ravenna, Freya’s ice powers are unlocked when her infant child is killed. The child’s death sends Freya on a mission to conquer as much land as possible, kidnapping children to train as her huntsman army. The best amongst those huntsman are Eric (Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain), who secretly break their queen’s only rule by falling in love with one another. After word of Revanna’s defeat at the hands of Snow White reaches the Ice Kingdom, it becomes a race to recover Revenna’s magic mirror.
The visuals, though not quite as striking as they were in the first movie, are still good enough to give the movie some solid popcorn eating enjoyment. There are also a couple of decent plot twists involved in the story, some you see coming from a mile away and some you don’t, that keep the plot from being too much of a generic action/adventure. As for the star studded cast, only Theron seems to really revel in her role, picking up right where she left off albeit in limited screen time. And Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, and Alexandra Roach do provide welcome humor as a set of wily supporting dwarves.
The biggest issue with Huntsman is really in the bland love story between Thor Eric and Sara. There’s enough cheesy dialogue between the two to conjure up more than a few eye rolls from any non-Twilight fan who’s watching and Jessica Chastain’s Sara, while being a tough warrior, just doesn’t seem to be intelligent enough to be truly likable. She tries her best to force herself away from Eric after Freya’s obvious attempt to separate them even though her heart, and sheer logic, should tell her otherwise.
The film ultimately suffers from lack of Charlize Theron, who undoubtedly breathes life into the few scenes she’s in. And while no one will miss Kristen Stewart, the fact that the movie takes place while her character is alive and in power, makes it incredibly awkward that she isn’t involved in the film at all. Instead, the movie focuses on Hemsworth and Chastain even though the previous film led us to believe there was a romantic connection building between Eric and Snow White. There are certainly worst films to be watched, but in the end The Huntsman: Winter’s War will end up being just as forgettable as its predecessor because of its main characters.
FINAL GRADE: C+