The Hunts­man: Win­ter’s War

Empire (UK) - - CINEMAS - Out now Di­rec­tor cast Plot / Jimi Fa­murewa

Cedric Ni­co­las-troyan Chris Hemsworth, Jes­sica Chas­tain, emily Blunt, Char­l­ize theron, Nick Frost, rob Bry­don, Sheri­dan Smith, Alexan­dra roach

Seven years af­ter Snow White de­feated evil Queen Ravenna (Theron), Eric the Hunts­man (Hemsworth) tries to keep the Magic Mir­ror away from Ravenna’s sis­ter, Ice Queen Freya (Blunt). lthough sold heav­ily in trail­ers as a pre­quel to 2012’s dark fairy-tale remix Snow White & The Hunts­man, the bulk of this fol­low-up ac­tu­ally takes place af­ter that film’s events. It’s a small de­tail, but an im­por­tant one, in the sense that it speaks to a wider con­fu­sion that turns Win­ter’s War from a fit­fully en­joy­able hunk of fan­tasy nos­tal­gia into a per­plex­ing tan­gle of dif­fer­ent time­lines and ret­conned plot threads.

the core tale starts sim­ply enough. grav­elly nar­ra­tion shows us nascent wicked step­mother Ravenna (Char­l­ize theron, gamely sell­ing the over­wrought cack­ling) dur­ing her pre-snow White days and briskly sets up the tragic death that turns her kindly sis­ter Freya (Emily Blunt) into the fear­somely pow­er­ful Elsa-alike Ice Queen. Newly fit­ted with a hard­ened heart, kick-ass frozen palace and Karl lager­feld hair, Freya sets about turn­ing or­phans from the vil­lages she top­ples into an army of adorable killers who will grow to be her hunts­men (never mind that half of them are women).

two of th­ese deadly war­riors are Eric and sara (Chris hemsworth and Jes­sica Chas­tain, armed with ill-ad­vised Celtic ac­cents), who, in de­fi­ance of their queen’s wishes, fall in love and plot an es­cape that ends in dis­as­ter. seven years later, with snow White in­dis­posed (orig­i­nal star Kris­ten ste­wart has been dealt a poi­soned ap­ple and doesn’t even ap­pear in flash­back), Eric is en­listed to find the Magic Mir­ror be­fore it falls into Freya’s frigid clutches.

thus be­gins (even­tu­ally) the strong­est por­tion of the film, as Eric and a band of mis­fits — in­clud­ing Rob Bry­don, Nick Frost, sheri­dan smith and Alexan­dra Roach steal­ing scenes as a quar­tet of bois­ter­ously of­fen­sive dwarves — chase the req­ui­site mys­ti­cal Macguf­fin through a vis­ually strik­ing fan­ta­syscape. hemsworth, de­spite the anaes­thetised Brave­heart voice, does a de­cent im­pres­sion of a man en­joy­ing him­self and French di­rec­tor Cedric Ni­co­las-troyan (pro­moted from his vis­ual ef­fects role on the first film) brings an ex­hil­a­rat­ing in­ten­sity to a bat­tle with a horde of gob­lins.

But in the end, it’s hard to see the wood for the en­chanted trees. Al­le­giances switch back and forth, ob­vi­ous twists come lol­lop­ing over the hori­zon and it all starts to re­sem­ble stray fan­tasy el­e­ments — from The Lord Of The Rings, Frozen, Willow — cyn­i­cally thrown into a whirring blender with the lid off. “this is the worst plan ever,” says Eric, not long be­fore a set-up for an­other se­quel lands with all the sub­tlety of a swing­ing axe. hard to ar­gue with that.

Had she not seen that the theme was yel­low, not blue!

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