Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Emily Blunt, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron, Nick Frost, Rob Brydon
Plot: Before Eric the huntsman helped Snow White defeat Ravenna, he was one of many children taken from their families by Ravenna's sister Freya, raised and trained to become hardened warriors under her command. When Freya learns of her sister's demise, she hatches a plan to retrieve the magic mirror, as Eric is dispatched by Snow White to help take the mirror to a sanctuary where it will be safe.
Review: Word went around during the time of the trailer's release that this film is the sequel no one asked for. To be fair, it's both a prequel and a sequel, much like 300: Rise Of An Empire was to 300.
This film begins with the story of Freya, Ravenna's sister, whose lover killed their child, causing her to manifest ice powers. No longer believing in love, she travels to the north and kidnaps children, raising them to be her army of huntsmen. Eric and Sara, two of her finest, fall in love against her wishes, and she separates them. Years later, after Eric had succeeded in aiding Snow White against Ravenna, he is asked to find the magic mirror, which Snow White had commanded to be taken to a sanctuary, but was lost in transit. With the help of a quartet of dwarfs, Eric has to get to it before Freya does.
Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who was assistant director on Snow White And The Huntsman as well as visual effects man for it, tries to recapture the magic of that film for this side-quel, though he only half succeeds. I like the technical aspects of The Huntsman, such as costume, visual effects and cinematography, which are all pretty awesome. Cedric succeeds in crafting some solid action sequences, especially the final fight, but the overall story isn't quite as engaging. Without Snow White and six of the seven dwarfs from the previous film, The Huntsman feels much too detached and a little haphazardly strung together to justify it as a worthy side-quel.
In the place of those characters we have Sara, Eric's wife who was presumed dead but actually not, plus three other dwarfs, two of them female, to assist Eric in his quest for the mirror. While Sara is a welcome addition, the dwarfs are quite an unnecessary distraction this time around.
Out of the cast, Emily Blunt performs the best here. She balances Freya's cold demeanor and despair from a broken heart very well to create a villain the audience can understand and sympathize with. Chris Hemsworth on the other hand seems disengaged for the most part as Eric, spending more time showing audiences the lighter side of his character, which doesn't always work. Jessica Chastain is impressive in the action sequences as Sara, and looks good for the first two thirds of the film, and then mysteriously turns disinterested in the last third. Charlize Theron gets just a little more than a glorified cameo as Ravenna, but is actually more effective here than in the previous film. Nick Frost, Rob Brydon, Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach drum up some decent humor as the dwarfs, but prove to be less fascinating than the original seven dwarfs.
Overall, The Huntsman: Winter's War doesn't quite hold a candle to its predecessor. If they somehow manage to make more Huntsman films, I suggest bringing back Snow White and more of the original dwarfs as their presence here is sorely missed. (6/10)