When the Snow White tale got the post-Lord of the Rings action treatment back in 2012 with Snow White and the Huntsman, you’d have been forgiven for thinking that there was no more tale left to tell. But this is Hollywood, and when your unexpected hit makes $400 million worldwide you can bet they’re not going to be bashful when it comes to planning a sequel. And so we find ourselves back in the dark fairytale land in this continuation that serves as both as a prequel and a sequel, but – as the title suggests – without the fairest of them all in tow.
In order to put the post-Snow White tale into perspective, we travel back to the moment where Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) first exercised her wicked ways, worming her way into power and ensuring that she was the fairest of them all. Yet it wasn’t just her poor King who suffered at her hands, Raveena’s sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), also came a cropper when her dutiful sibling helped her out by robbing her of her loved one and newborn child.
It was this last act that led to the inception of the Huntsmen, children plucked from the bosom of their families and trained to hunt, kill and never, ever love. Needless to say, one of their number was Eric. All grown up, Eric (Chris Hemsworth) does the worst thing imaginable and falls for fellow Huntswoman, Sara (Jessica Chastain). Needless to say, things don’t go well and Eric is banished, finding his way into the story that preceded this one (you know the one, with dwarfs, apples and all that).
Flashing forward now (keeping up?), we find ourselves post-Snow White. The evil queen has been vanquished, but her precious mirror is still a cause for concern, having recently gone missing, Snow White’s husband William informs Eric that ‘Queen Not Appearing in This Film’ has charged him and the funniest dwarf from the first film (Nick Frost) to find it and return it to her before it falls into the wrong hands. Adventures ensue.
Firstly, this isn’t a bad film, but it’s not a particularly brilliant one either. To say that the sub-Frozen plot lacks originality is putting it mildly and the Tolkein-lite quest feels incredibly familiar. That said, what there is, is accomplished incredibly well. Considering this film ran at around two thirds of the budget of the first film, the only time you really feel that on screen is the lack of epic battles. Otherwise, the effects and look of the film are as you would expect them to be, and the camaraderie between the various couples (from Hemsworth and Chastain to Rob Brydon and Sheridan Smith) work well enough to make it an enjoyable romp in itself.
Sadly, Hemsworth’s accent still bounces around somewhere between Tom Cruise Far and Away and Brad Pitt Snatch, but there’s no escaping his cavalier charm which is more evident here, especially in the Extended Edition. Theron continues to joyfully consume scenery with every breath, leaving Blunt the opportunity to show some real emotion as the icy queen Elsa, sorry, Freya and the dulcet tones of Liam Neeson’s narration at the beginning adds a certain gravitas.
The film comes in two flavours: Theatrical Cut and Extended, along with four deleted/extended scenes, two-part featurette Winter’s Vistas: The Making of The Huntsman: Winter’s War, and a gag reel which includes Theron having to parent on camera, Blunt’s stomach noises and a particularly busy flight path.
THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR / CERT: 12 / DIRECTOR: CEDRIC NICOLAS-TROYAN / SCREENPLAY: EVAN SPILIOTOPOULOS, CRAIG MAZIN / STARRING: CHRIS HEMSWORTH, CHARLIZE THERON, JESSICA CHASTAIN, EMILY BLUNT, NICK FROST / RELEASE DATE: AUGUST 15TH