The Huntsman: Winter’s War (2016)
Directed by Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
“The Huntsman: Winter’s War” is just a live-action “Frozen” rip-off. Our Elsa is Queen Freya (Emily Blunt), sister of the wicked Queen Ravenna (Charlize Theron) we saw die in 2012’s “Snow White and the Huntsman.” Her lover killed their baby during its infancy, and Freya got real mad—like, white hair/ice powers mad. So she raised instead a child army, including Eric and Sara, her brightest pupils (as adults, played by Chris Hemsworth and Jessica Chastain). But seven years later (this is after the 2012 movie, now…keep up), Eric hears of the disappearance of Queen Ravenna’s golden mirror, and knows he must find it before Freya does. So he gets the help of two dwarves, Nion and Gryff (Nick Frost and Rob Brydon) to help him defeat the Queen’s army.
It doesn’t take a golden mirror to see that Emily Blunt doesn’t belong here. A fun musical like “Into the Woods,” absolutely. A dark thriller like “Sicario,” definitely. This junk? You’re above that, Emily. Charlize Theron can do better, too, but she embraces the bad. She relishes the opportunity to up the schlock at every turn. The poorly written dialogue (from screenwriters that brought us movies like “Scary Movie 4” and “Cinderella 3”) finds unexpected new meaning from her lips. She’s a lone glimmering bright spot, and her role in “Fast 8” is now more exciting than ever. And then there’s Chris Hemsworth—we expect this awfulness from him. The jokes written for his character are at best unfunny and at worst downright offensive. His romance with Jessica Chastain (if that comes as a surprise, maybe this is your type of movie) is rushed and shallower than Hal. Only when he gets to break goblin neck do we see what he’s actually good at—shutting his mouth and talking with his muscles.
On the plus-side (and there are very few), “Winter’s War” seems to have zero budgetary constraints. No surprise, since its predecessor boasted one of the biggest budgets (after inflation) of all time. First-time director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan worked on visual effects for “Snow White and the Huntsman,” so he knows. It’s certainly pretty. And narration by Liam Neeson is the only acceptable kind of narration. But on the whole, “The Huntsman: Winter’s War” is a shameful money grab that probably won’t even make up its massive budget.