Emily Blunt and Charlize Theron in The Huntsman: Winter’s War (Photo: Universal)
THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER’S WAR
★½ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
STARS Chris Hemsworth, Charlize Theron
If a studio is going to loosen the purse strings enough to hire the formidable trio of Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain, then why not do so for a worthy Oscar-bait title? Maybe something by Shakespeare. Or Chekhov. Or a remake of The Women (oh, wait, Hollywood already remade — and botched — that one). But corralling this titanic threesome and dumping them into something as inconsequential as The Huntsman: Winter’s War is only slightly less bothersome than if someone signed up Daniel Day-Lewis, George Clooney and Michael Fassbender to appear in yet another dim-witted Transformers sequel.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War is, of course, the follow-up to the 2012 sort-of-kind-of-maybe-a-hit Snow White and the Huntsman. While superior to that same year’s other Snow White saga, the torturous Mirror Mirror, SW&TH was itself only so-so, a Tolkien wannabe that succeeded partially on its interesting interpretation of Snow White (effectively, if occasionally awkwardly, played by Kristen Stewart) and primarily on a terrific performance by Theron as the evil Queen Ravenna. With Stewart punished and booted out of the franchise for having an affair with the married director (showing we really haven’t come that far since the blacklisting of Ingrid Bergman in the late 1940s), the focus has shifted solely to the Huntsman, aka Eric (Chris Hemsworth), who, let’s face it, was the dullest character in that first film. Here, we follow the hunk through what’s initially a prequel to SW&TH before settling into being a sequel. Eric is paired with Sara (Chastain), a fierce huntswoman and his one true love, as they battle Ravenna’s little sister Freya (Emily Blunt as a wicked version of Frozen‘s Elsa) and, eventually, a Ravenna who’s been resurrected from the dead.
As before, Theron dominates the proceedings; unfortunately, she has about as much screen time as the Jawas in Star Wars. Blunt’s frigid queen is the only character who goes through anything resembling a character arc, but she’s also sidelined for much of the film. The bulk of the picture instead focuses on the woodland adventures of Eric and Sara, and it makes for an exceedingly snoozy experience. Narrative inertia sets in as these two bicker, battle a fakey CGI critter, bicker some more, team up with some spunky dwarfs, and finally make out a little bit. Were I Rex Reed back in that brief period when he helmed that awful movie-review program opposite Bill Harris and then Dixie Whatley, I would have relished the opportunity to bellow, “Winter’s War?!? More like Winter’s Bore!!”