‘The Huntsman: Winter’s War’ expands a world that doesn’t merit expansion

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courtesy of collider.com

The Huntsman and Sara share a forbidden love.

Alec Badalian, Magazine Editor

Remember that Snow White movie from a few years back? Not many people do. Financially successful yet substantially insignificant, Snow White and the Huntsman was a particularly weak, unexciting “dark and gritty” revival of the classic fairy tale, because apparently every children’s story needs to be told again, but this time with murky colors and bruting characters. All that’s left is an edgy reboot of The Berenstain Bears that draws its influences from The Revenant. From Maleficent to Alice in Wonderland, the film market has become saturated with these grim fairy tale revivals and have rendered this subgenre completely stale, with The Huntsman: Winter’s War being about as stale as these films can get.

Swashbuckling its way into theaters April 22, this unnecessary sequel comes to us from the visual effects supervisor of the first film, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, making his feature debut. Returning from the predecessor is Chris Hemsworth as the titular hero and Charlize Theron as the wicked Ravenna, who is brought back to life by her sister Freya (Emily Blunt), who also happens to be the Ice Queen. When the two team up to to conquer the Enchanted Forest, the Huntsman and his childhood friend turned lover Sara (Jessica Chastain) must stop their reign of terror and keep the world safe from darkness.

It’s never a good sign when a director makes their debut with a big-budget blockbuster, even if they do have experience with special effects such as Nicolas-Troyan. Not even the most breathtaking of visuals can stitch together a film’s broken narrative, and that is exactly the case here. The visuals are fine, nothing particularly astounding, but are somewhat fun to look at during the occasional well-staged action set piece. But take that away and all that’s left is a horrendous screenplay filled with gaping plot holes, abysmal comedic relief and a horribly dull love story.

The script is not worth the talents of the strong cast at hand, who do their best to make what’s given to them work, but they can only do so much. The chemistry between Hemsworth and Chastain is flat and their wildly inconsistent Scottish accents are as unconvincing as they are distracting. Individually, Hemsworth is serviceable action protagonist yet again, but Chastain is particularly miscast here as she seems to be vastly out of her comfort zone. Blunt is also quite lifeless as the main villain, with Theron adding some much needed energy by hamming it up in every scene she’s in. Whether she’s being turned into liquid gold or stabbing people with spiky tentacles that launch out of her stomach, she’s clearly having a fun time, which is something the rest of the cast doesn’t seem to be having.

Despite some flashy visuals and a cast with a strong track record, there’s never a moment where this film earns its right to exist. If the script were tighter and setup of the first film had been stronger, then maybe, just maybe there would be a clear reason why this franchise just needed to be continued.