Certificate 12A, 114 minutes
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron
The Huntsman: Winter's War is both a prequel and a sequel film to Snow White and the Huntsman. It opens some time prior to the events of that film, with Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) playing chess with the king (Robert Portal) - Snow White's father. When Ravenna beats the king at chess, taking the king on the board, he, too dies - apparently, it wasn't just a game. Ravenna rules his kingdom following his death, and is joined by her younger sister, Freya (Emily Blunt, Edge of Tomorrow, Looper, Sicario). Unlike her sister, Freya has no power, and thinks she will never get any. Ravenna, who says all the women in their family have power, believes otherwise, and that Freya's power simply hasn't shown itself yet.
Two of the children stand out as being better than the others, Sara (Niamh Walter) and Eric (Conrad Khan). They become the best of her Huntsmen, but the adult Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain) fall in love and secretly marry (and for some reason, both are extremely Scottish). They plan to flee the Ice Queen's realm, but she knows of their betrayal - and in her kingdom, love is the most forbidden of all sins, and is punishable by death. Queen Freya is still suffering the effects of a broken heart. She says that she will let them go, but she lies - and Sara dies in the fight. Eric is thrown into the river to die.
Seven years later, and Queen Ravenna has been defeated by Snow White who now rules her kingdom. Eric, the Huntsman, still mourns his lost wife. The dwarf, Nion (Nick Frost, Cuban Fury, The World's End, Unfinished Business) together with his half brother, Gryff (Rob Brydon), help Snow White's men find him. His help is requested; Snow White had become disturbed by Ravenna's mirror, and had sent it to Sanctuary. It has since gone missing, and the Huntsman's help is requested in finding it and delivering it to the Sanctuary. The mirror has great power, and great evil, and the Ice Queen is after it. For the mirror, unknown to them, does not merely hold power - it also holds inside it the dead queen, Ravenna, who can be released from it.
Whilst looking for the mirror, Eric also comes across his dead wife, Sara - who is rather less than dead and rather more than bitter about him abandoning her to the Ice Queen, who kept her locked away in the dungeon until she recently escaped. Eric saw Sara die; Sara saw Eric flee - it's obvious that Freya was playing tricks on both of them, although Sara isn't willing to forgive and forget. They also meet up with a couple of female dwarves, Mrs. Bromwyn (Sheridan Smith) and Doreena (Alexandra Roach). The relationship between male and female dwarves is less than amicable on the whole, providing friction. It also appears that dwarves are rather Welsh. With the mirror in the Ice Queen's possession, and her sister's spirit released from it, the forces of the northlands, which are now all under the sway of Queen Freya, are poised to sweep down on the lands of the south.
The film is available in both 2D and 3D, with the 2D version being the one watched. Although it is being advertised as the story before Snow White, most of the film actually takes place after it. It is only the events prior to the Huntsman being left for, and presumed, dead by Freya that take place prior to that film; the majority of the film, and the main events of it, take place after. There are some elements of humour, which are mostly provided by the dwarves. Sometimes these don't work out that well; the humour is fine, but it clashes badly with the violence. Violence and humour can be mixed well (Deadpool) but they can also be mixed badly, and this happens a few times here. There are some nice action pieces, especially when Eric and Sara commit some, admittedly rather bloodless, carnage. Although if the carnage had been less bloodless, this would more than likely have resulted in a higher certification.
Charlize Theron does the evil queen rather nicely; Emily Blunt is rather less convincing as an evil queen, but her character is not really as nasty at heart as her sister's. Freya does what she does through a broken heart and loss of love; Ravenna is simply not a very nice person who wants power over everything. The combination of attractiveness and lust for power in Ravenna make her a formidable character. Unfortunately, she isn't on screen for as much as she could be. Mostly due to being technically dead for a lot of the film. Snow White doesn't really appear in the film at all, only the back of her head, which means on the plus side, no Kristen Stewart, which raises the average level of the acting talent in the film. Due to an affair between Stewart and the director, the plans for the sequel were messed up, with both eventually dropped from the film.
There are some twists to the plot, some minor ones earlier on and a big one towards the end, but these are the sort of twists that are actually expected, which means they aren't really twists at all. Most can be seen coming a long way off and, in fact, the entire outcome of the story could be predicted without too much in the way of trouble. There is a suggestion that there may be another film, as at the end the narrator says that fairytales are never truly over, but this will, of course, depend on just how well the film itself does. Just what sort of film is it? is it a love story? Good versus evil? An action film with comedy elements? Well, to a degree it's all of these, and that turns out to be a bit of a problem, because they aren't blended together that well. The Huntsman: Winter's War looks very nice, and has some nice pieces in it, and probably better acting than the first but, like its predecessor, it just lacks a certain something.