A mere week after the release of The Jungle Book, we are given yet another live-action Disney movie to swallow, The Huntsman: Winter's War being the follow-up to Snow White & The Huntsman, a film which received mixed reviews from critics and audiences upon its release.
The marketing for this sort-of sequel was nothing short of puzzling with trailers and posters not exactly clarifying whether this was meant to be a straight-up sequel, a prequel or just a mostly unrelated spin-off. With the likes of Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth returning (Nick Frost also) but no-one else, this looked set to be a wholly unnecessary, confusing mess so it's no wonder Jungle Book, as bland as that remake may be, is currently trashing the film at the box-office. As it turns out, The Huntsman takes place both before the first film and after with Snow White getting a mention but no screen time. Theron's witch now has a sister (played by Emily Blunt) who becomes The Ice Queen following a traumatic super power-defining moment.
Having a fantasy film with an ice theme so close to Summer begs the question: why wasn't this a Christmas release? Surely more people would have been willing to check out a Frozen ripoff around that time of years. Indeed, The Huntsman steals a lot from Frozen but also Brave as Jessica Chastain is basically the live-action incarnation of the Scottish princess in Pixar's film and there are also some obvious Lord Of The Rings parallels with the mirror being the evil macguffin everyone seeks instead of the ring. So if there's one thing The Huntsman isn't it's original. It's also not at all necessary since it feels like a side quest in the Snow White story, a side quest you'd expect from the fourth movie in the franchise, not the first sequel.
When they're not busy butchering a Scottish accent, Chastain and Hemsworth do a good job with the action sequences, jumping around and kicking all sorts of butt while Nick Frost and Rob Brydon bring some welcome comic relief as the obligatory dwarves. Blunt and Theron are both very good as both witch queens in different ways, the former is more quietly disturbed while the latter is just as over-the-top and loud as she was in the first film. Having said that, Charlize Theron is hardly essential here and the movie would have probably made a bit more sense without having to shoehorn her character in. On the plus side, the special effects are creative and look cool, the fight scenes are fun, there are some nifty twists and turns to the story and the whole thing is very entertaining.
Something about The Huntsman: Winter's War never sat right and still doesn't after watching it: it's far too derivative and it doesn't exactly add anything to that franchise. Luckily, it's a visually appealing film, a fun brainless adventure with a solid cast, a great score and an explosive climax so if you enjoyed Snow White & The Huntsman, it's worth a watch.
Flawed yet slick fantasy.