I missed seven minutes of this movie and didn’t care. That should tell you something, I think. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a dreary exercise in futility, with no reason to exist, and nothing in it to change that.
Serving as both prequel (for the first thirty minutes) and sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman, it’s incredibly awkward to witness a story where Snow White is queen and yet she’s kept mostly off-screen due to…extra-marital affairs during production on the last one? Or maybe Kristen Stewart just said no. Either way, she dodged a bullet. That leaves Chris Hemsworth to carry the lion’s share, and while he’s a charming fellow with charisma to spare, he’s hamstrung by a Scottish accent and a script so ham-fisted the heroes are literally rebelling against a world where love is banned.
This time he’s paired with Jessica Chastain, a much better actress than Stewart, also saddled with an unnecessary Scottish accent. These good-looking people are talented enough to make you care a smidge about their long-lost romance, but only a smidge. “Love conquers all” as a theme is so dead it’s like kicking the dirt after the horse is gone and buried. You see, they grew up together under the tutelage of an ice queen (Emily Blunt), a scorned woman whose mission is to save all of the children from the broken promise of love. Their longing was forbidden, their separation inevitable.
The Huntsman thinks you care about, well, The Huntsman. You don’t, despite Thor’s best efforts. You care about funny dwarves and Charlize Theron screaming and preening around in beautifully Gothic costumes, so whaddaya know, The Huntsman gives you Charlize Theron screaming and preening around in beautifully Gothic costumes…for fifteen minutes. She makes an appearance early on to set up her Frozen rip-off of a sister, and then she disappears until the final act when it’s time for the TRUE VILLAIN to rear her pretty face again. Theron wails pretty well and Blunt is nice and icy until she’s predictably not anymore.
Thank God for Nick Frost, because at least we get more of the dwarves. Only four of them, two of which aren’t even members of the iconic “seven dwarves,” but they’re all funny, endearing characters nonetheless. And it’s always amusing when a character points out a ridiculous cliche in his own movie, such as Nion when he calls out the Huntsman’s ability to live through six or seven blows to the head. I appreciated that. Ditto the irony inherent in a dwarf culture where men and women physically detest each other.
All of this is to say that, regardless of charm and a theme that means no harm, Winter’s War is not compelling. It commits the worst sin of all in fairy tales: it’s boring. It’s boring because we don’t care.