Axing the dour-stricken and bored-to-the-brim Kristen Stewart (the titular female character from 2012’s Snow White and The Huntsman) was a brilliant move and all this follow-up film really needed to do to raise the enjoyment factor… That alone would have sufficed for most – but in lieu of her royal grumpiness, the line-up (which already included Hemsworth, Theron and Frost) grows to talented new heights with the addition of Blunt and a bad-to-the-bone Chastain. The Huntsman: Winters War is probably best described – albeit very clunkily – as Game of Thrones meets Frozen meets Lord of the Rings meets Brave meets Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom with a dash of Terminator 2. This description is a mouthful, the busy film itself is an eyeful and the experience, well, the experience, unfortunately, never quite fills the brain. As a whole, it’s a fantasy-based, warring queen cavalcade of seen-it-before visuals, uninspiring action sequences and a ping pong-like narrative that never really allows the film to completely gel. The life preserver, however, in this vast sea of cinematic mediocrity is the A-list cast who are all clearly having a blast while they share top billing in a film that – upon first blush – is seemingly beneath them. With their heavy and hearty thespianic lifting, the film sporadically comes alive with a nice dose of humor, a tad of heart and a robust energy that will almost certainly and harmlessly engage (to some extent) most audiences. A better film would have been welcomed, but a little harmlessly surprising fun never hurt a soul.
Starring: Charlize Theron, Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt and Nick Frost
Directed by: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Running time: 2hr. 3min.
Story: Long before the evil Queen Ravenna was thought vanquished by Snow White’s blade, she watched silently as her sister, Freya, suffered a heartbreaking betrayal and fled their kingdom. With Freya’s ability to freeze any enemy, the young ice queen has spent decades in a remote wintry palace raising a legion of deadly huntsmen—including Eric and warrior Sara —only to find that her prized two defied her one demand: Forever harden your hearts to love. When Freya learns of her sister’s demise, she summons her remaining soldiers to bring the Magic Mirror home to the only sorceress left who can harness its power. But once she discovers Ravenna can be resurrected from its golden depths, the wicked sisters threaten this enchanted land with twice the darkest force it’s ever seen. Now, their amassing army shall prove undefeatable…unless the banished huntsmen who broke their queen’s cardinal rule can fight their way back to one another. [Universal Pictures]