The Huntsman Winter's War | Film review - Fabulous frocks make up for drab derring-do

The Huntsman Winter's War Emily Blunt Charlize Theron.jpg
(Image credit: Giles Keyte)
(Image credit: Giles Keyte)

Doing duty as both prequel and sequel to 2012’s fairytale fantasy Snow White and the Huntsman, The Huntsman: Winter’s War cobbles together a new adventure for Chris Hemsworth’s strapping hero Eric but casts aside Kristen Stewart’s kick-ass action-heroine Snow White and scales back the involvement of their erstwhile nemesis, Charlize Theron’s gorgeously dressed, thoroughly wicked queen Ravenna.

Yet the previous film’s hero-heroine-evil-queen dynamic remains, with Eric and his fellow huntsperson, Sara (Jessica Chastain), pitched against Emily Blunt’s ice queen Freya, Ravenna’s sister. Getting these figures into place, however, requires some cumbersome, decade-spanning plotting and the portentous assistance of an omniscient narrator.

The Huntsman Winter's War Emily Blunt Freya.jpg

Freya started out nice, we learn, but tragedy has frozen her heart, giving her magic powers that she has put to kingdom-conquering use, having turned ranks of abducted children into a warrior army. Love is forbidden in her realm, which is bad news for two of her conscripts, the hot-to-trot Eric and Sara. Inevitably, they fall foul of Freya’s wrath, but it takes a hefty amount of narrative fudging to give them a shot at redemption.

Along the way, they pick up some comic-relief sidekicks – a quartet of squabbling dwarves played by Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith and Alexander Roach, who fill in gaps in the action with battle-of-the-sexes badinage.

The Huntsman Winter's War Jessica Chastain Chris Hemsworth.jpg

The derring-do itself is fairly routine and Hemsworth and Chastain’s heroic couple, both lumbered with generic Scottish accents, are disappointingly dull (Chastain’s bow-wielding markswoman is blatantly a chip off the Katniss block). Instead, it’s left to Blunt and Theron’s fabulously attired siblings to save the movie. This devilish duo may not have the best tunes, but with ace costume designer Colleen Atwood once again providing the drop-dead dresses, they certainly have the best gowns.

Certificate 12A. Runtime 117 mins. Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.