A somewhat surprisingly worthy follow up to the new age retelling of Snow White, namely 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman, this has clout as well as pyrotechnics.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War is billed as a prequel. It tells how the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), also known as Eric, came to be. That involves the malevolent Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) but, more specifically, her sister Freya (Emily Blunt). We, of course, know that the Queen is evil incarnate. She doesn’t believe in love or sentiment and will kill anyone to ensure her domination. That includes manipulating her sister, who is in love with a man who is promised to someone else. In fact, Freya is pregnant with his child. But the Queen makes short work of that, ripping the soul out of sis in the process. Freya then proceeds to claim her own territory (in the north) and carve out a hideous reputation as the Ice Queen, who conquers all. She bans smiling and affection, and most certainly love and lust.
When she discovers that her two greatest warriors, Eric and Sara (Jessica Chastain) have fallen in love, there is hell to pay. The pair has grown up together and competed in the Ice Queen’s gladiatorial conquests to prepare them to fight in wars for her. Their admiration for one another has clearly grown into something more. We then cut to seven years later when Queen Ravinna’s magic mirror – which has strong powers – has gone missing and Eric is tasked with bringing it back in an attempt to keep it out of the wrong hands.
Nick Frost reprises the role of the impetuous dwarf Nion and he is joined by Rob Brydon in a similar role as Gryff. Gryff’s foil is Mrs Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith), one of the toughest little people around, with Doreena (Alexandra Roach) as her sidekick. Doreena is sweet on Nion.
Writers Evan Spiliotopoulos (Beauty and the Beast) and Craig Mazin (The Hangover series) have created a strong storyline, in keeping with the dark feel of the original. Direction is from Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who was second unit director of Snow White and the Huntsman and played a similar role in Maleficent. The blend of live action adventure with CGI and special effects works well.
The feistiness of Eric and Sara, the malicious behaviour of the two nasty Queens competing with one another and the impertinence of the dwarves is quite an intoxicating blend. Charlize Theron again revels in her wanton wickedness, while Emily Blunt has to play both vulnerable and power hungry, and manages to pull that off. Chris Hemsworth’s pretty boy charm and guns are a lethal combination, which will help to capture the attention of many a fair maiden. Then there is Jessica Chastain, more than happy to go toe-to-toe with him. She, too, is not a woman to be taken lightly. It is a willing and vital combination.
Importantly, the story works regardless of whether or not you saw the first instalment. So, The Huntsman: Winter’s War gets my thumbs up and is better than I expected.
Rated M, it scores a 7 out of 10.
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Cast: Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain
Release Date: 7 April 2016
David Edwards is the editor of The Blurb and a contributor on film and television