While a non-conventional retelling of an established fairy tale is always a great change of pace, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” fails to do what “Snow White and the Huntsman” did — commit to the premise and never falter.
“Winter’s War” is fortunate enough not to have Kristen Stewart as Snow White, but it still ends up as a less-than-mediocre fantasy epic.
After the magic mirror is stolen, Snow White’s armies recruit the Huntsman, played by Chris Hemsworth (“The Avengers”), to recover the powerful artifact. However, the journey will ultimately force him to face his past and stop Freya the Ice Queen, played by Emily Blunt (“Edge of Tomorrow”).
It’s important to note that “Winter’s War” — an unusual title, given that a battle never takes place on screen — is, for all intents and purposes, a sequel. The film does reveal character backstories in the first act before transitioning to events that take place after the original.
Most of the acting is subpar.
Hemsworth delivers his lines in a garbled Scottish accent, slurring vowels together unintelligibly. This is also true for Jessica Chastain (“The Martian”), who plays the Huntsman’s lover, Sara.
It becomes apparent that Chastain was contractually obligated to be in the film, as she merely goes through the motions with a ridiculous lack of passion or interest.
“Winter’s War” becomes a far better and more enjoyable film when Charlize Theron (“Mad Max: Fury Road”) appears on screen as the evil queen, Ravenna. She’s fantastic. Her performance is drenched in an abundance of ham as she gleefully over-acts every line of dialogue she’s given.
Theron is, without a doubt, the best part of the movie. It’s just a shame she has so little screen time.
“Winter’s War” also has an annoying habit of explaining what’s happening.
Liam Neeson (“Taken”) lends his delightful voice for the narrator role and is a welcome addition. The narration itself, however, is very poorly written. The commentary consistently points out the obvious or wastes time discussing what has been, is being, or will be shown.
Thankfully, when the film takes the forethought to show story elements with visual cues, it really shines. Impressive visuals and gorgeous scenery is a showcase of the film’s strengths, not to mention the absolutely spectacular audio design and sound mixing.
A lot of the action set pieces are entertaining, and it is a joy to listen to and watch. Unfortunately, the film has a habit of taking itself a bit too seriously. For all of its departures from the source material and the over-the-top action scenes, it’s too grim and structured to be enjoyable.
This is a fun movie, but because of its inconsistent acting and bizarrely sober tone, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” never becomes exciting enough to deserve attention.