The Huntsman: Winter’s War expands on the story of Eric the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) in two parts. The story begins as Ravena, the evil Queen from Snow White and the Huntsman (Charlize Theron), warns her sister Freya (Emily Blunt) that she is pregnant by a man who is promised to another woman. When Freya’s baby is born, the father plays a trick that ends in the death of her child, turning her heart cold and unleashing the power to control ice and snow. Freya departs to take over much of the kingdom, capturing her subject’s children to raise as a lethal army of Huntsmen. The only rule is that in Freya’s kingdom there can be no romantic love (only the motherly kind, which of course always has pure motives). Enter Eric. Raised to be the best of the Huntsmen, he falls in love with Sara (Jessica Chastain), who becomes his wife. Their love is discovered, things go bad, and Eric is left devastated. (Now go and watch Snow White and the Huntsman to find out what happens in between.) In present day, Eric is asked by Snow White, now the Queen, to find Ravena’s mirror which was stolen during transport to a sanctuary where it would be safe and harm no one. Chaos ensues.
Where Snow White and the Huntsman was a dark, grey, dour piece of cinema that had no fun, no life, and stretched suspension of disbelief to unreasonable limits with the casting of Kristen Stewart as the most pure, beautiful woman alive, The Huntsman: Winter’s War strives to tell a much better story. There is humour, there is love, there is action, it’s pretty much everything you want in a dumb action movie, except it still thinks it’s making high art. It’s not. If you took Frozen and removed the singing this would be the resulting film, which makes sense given it was made by the producer of Maleficent.
The special effects are, of course, excellent, except for the monkey/goats which are supposed to be goblins (allegedly), and the costumes are gorgeous, but even that can’t sort out some of the more nonsensical parts of the plot. There is again inclusion of tall actors in place of short ones who could have aptly played the parts of the two dwarves (Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis aren’t the only short guys in Hollywood — Davis runs a casting agency just for people of different-than-average body types), but Nick Frost and Rob Brydon do a good job of being dwarves, despite the fact that there is no good reason for them to be in the movie.
The plot is… crazy. The first film didn’t seem to do well enough to imply there was audience demand for another movie, which is probably why the studio greenlit a film that was part sequel, part prequel. To be fair, the “prequel” part of the film is only the first act, setting things up for the “sequel” portion of the film which takes up acts two and three. While Jessica Chastain and Chris Hemsworth have excellent chemistry, the love story here moves too fast to be real and entirely lacks the force it needs to make anyone care what happens to either of them.