What’s a mirror if not a mirror? What’s a prequel if also a sequel? What’s a Snow White story if not a Snow White? What’s a Winter’s War if not one decent battle?
And those are just few of the things wrong with this successor to Snow White and the Huntsman of 2012, which starts decades before that film’s beginning, and ends seven years (yes, that precise) after its end. Worse, The Huntsman: Winter’s War reminds you of at least three, far superior films. A golden round thing that hypnotises and hisses? Lord of the Rings. A magical forest with bright, other-wordly creatures? Avatar. Two sisters one of whom goes into depression, freezes everything she wants, and hides away in an ice castle? That, of course, would be Frozen.
So why should one watch Winter’s War? One wishes one could say for its star cast, impressive as it is. However, if the dazzling, imposing Theron is missing but for a few minutes of snarling venom at the end, the others are, to say the least, far from fairy-like. Blunt, a fine actress as she is, alternates between grieving eyes and cold stare, weighed down by overladen costumes that are, always, grey and metallic, often with strings of chains. It’s also unclear what exactly is her mission. As Queen Freya, sister to Theron’s Queen Ravenna, she starts off mourning for the loss of her daughter, and proceeds to set up a kingdom by acquiring lands from where she brings children back to turn into soldiers.
And then there are Hemsworth and Chastain, Freya’s best soldiers, providing the romantic angle (for lack of a Snow White). Both are too old to play the love-sick couple the film wants them to be, but Hemsworth has the twinkly eyes to pass off as at least someone young at heart. There is scarcely any chemistry to rescue the two either, even though Winter’s War hopelessly tries to set off a few sparks with a needless tiff.
In fact, the only ones to impress are the little men, and women, of the film. The dwarves, as played by Frost, Brydon, Smith and Roach, are warm, genuine, sarcastic, ironic, and even, more romantic.
If only they were more intelligible. Among the many inconsistent accents on offer is Scottish, and Hemsworth has his way with mangling it towards incomprehension.
In the film’s own words, delivered by a very, very grim Liam Neeson, “Some fairy tales do come true… but they never really end.”
Even at the cost of calling this a fairy tale, this one should.
Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Starring Emily Blunt, Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith, Alexandra Roach