Francesca Rudkin is an entertainment reviewer for NZ Herald.

Movie review: The Huntsman: Winter's War

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Emily Blunt stars as the evil ice queen Freya in the movie, The Huntsman: Winter's War.
Emily Blunt stars as the evil ice queen Freya in the movie, The Huntsman: Winter's War.

Snow White and the Huntsman from 2012 was a visually stunning but ponderous fantasy drama, best known for the real-life adulterous tryst between director Rupert Sanders and his Snow White, Kristen Stewart.

Neither return in what is part prequel, part sequel. Snow White and the Huntsman's visual effects supervisor Cedric Nicolas-Troyan takes on directing duties, and Chris Hemsworth, the former axe-wielding Huntsman, Eric, steps into the lead role.

He's joined by Jessica Chastain as Sara, who is Eric's love interest and an impressive Huntswoman and Emily Blunt as the evil ice queen Freya.

Jessica Chastain stars in the film The Huntsman: Winter's War.
Jessica Chastain stars in the film The Huntsman: Winter's War.

Freya is the sister of Snow White's rival Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and, while she didn't get a mention in the original film, just like her sister, she's a piece of work. In the prequel part of the film, we learn how when Freya's lover killed their baby daughter she was transformed from sweet and loving to heartless and power hungry.

Much like Frozen's Elsa, Freya is with a wave of her hand able to turn anything to ice, and flees North to live in an icicle-like castle surrounded by a frozen wasteland.

Unlike Elisa, she also steals children and raises them as Huntsmen, a personal army who are forbidden to fall in love.

Eric and Sara (Chastain) are stolen from their parents and raised as Freya's soldiers.

As adults they defy their Queen by falling in love with tragic consequences. It's an interesting enough set up, which is mostly squandered when the story jumps forward seven years, until after the events of Snow White and The Huntsman, and the plot thins markedly.

Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain star in The Huntsman: Winter's War.
Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain star in The Huntsman: Winter's War.

What plot there is hinges on a magic mirror that is making Snow White sick and which must be put into sanctuary before Freya can get her hands on it, and it feels like a scramble of ideas as we drift towards a predictable showdown between Eric and Freya, livened up somewhat by Nick Frost and Rob Brydon's as hilarious dwarfs.

Like the original, the production design is impressive; with Colleen Atwood's impeccable, luxurious costumes a standout. Blunt and Theron do evil well, but in an example of form over function it's hard to see past their beautiful makeup, braided hair and exquisitely detailed head pieces and concentrate on who they're planning to destroy next.

Charlize Theron does evil well in The Huntsman: Winter's War.
Charlize Theron does evil well in The Huntsman: Winter's War.

While The Huntsman: Winter's War is lighter, funnier and aimed at a broader audience (read, fans of Chris Hemsworth's axe-wielding Thor) than its sombre predecessor, this fairytale mish-mash is unlikely to invigorate the franchise.

Movie: The Huntsman: Winter's War
Cast: Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron
Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Running Time: 117 mins
Rating: M (Violence, offensive language)
Verdict: Game of Thrones meets Frozen with better costumes but worse story.

- TimeOut

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