** out of four
The Huntsman: Winter's War is a prequel...no, a sequel...well, sort of both a prequel and a sequel to 2012's Snow White and the Huntsman. The new film starts off with an extended back story on how Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) becomes Eric the Huntsman and how he finds his true love, Sara (Jessica Chastain). We also see how the nasty Queen, Ravenna (Charlize Theron), turns her sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), into an evil snow queen. Then, we jump to seven years later – and after the events of Snow White and the Huntsman – to see Eric on a quest to retrieve Snow White's magic mirror.
This action-oriented fantasy really is a mess, with an absolutely dull first half. Featured throughout, however, are lousy attempts at Scottish accents by both Hemsworth and Chastain. Yes, it pains me to admit that my sweet, sweet Jessica Chastain isn't very good here. In fact, Eric and Sara are just the dullest characters.
But then the second hour improves thanks in part to Nick Frost and Rob Brydon as a couple of bumbling dwarfs, and it's very funny when they meet their sarcastic female counterparts (Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach). A solid performance by Blunt and a genuinely exciting finale also add spark.
Snow White, herself, is nowhere to be found. I guess it was too expensive to get Kristen Stewart to do a cameo (?), and recasting would not have allowed the filmmakers to use footage from the first film. The way it is, with only talk of Snow White and the character never making an actual appearance outside of clips from the previous movie, feels sloppy.
The Huntsman is not terrible but also not that great. It's the kind of movie you watch when nothing else is on.