Was anyone crying out for a sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman? Only one half of that duo returns for this instalment, although Snow White is constantly mentioned, somewhat awkwardly.
A series of prologues (narrated by Liam Neeson in what must have been for him a lucrative ten minutes or so), introduces Emily Blunt, playing a character copied wholesale from a certain Disney mega-hit. Neeson even lingers on the word ‘frozen’, the aural equivalent of winking at the camera.
It’s the first example of many ideas pilfered from other, better films. There’s a pinch of PJ’s Rings odyssey, a sprinkling of Planet of the Apes, and so on, but it’s all window dressing on a story where not much actually happens, other than some characters travelling from A to B.
Thankfully the dour tone of the prologues eventually gives way to something more cheerful, as Chris Hemsworth starts to crack his famous smile and Nick Frost and Rob Brydon crack jokes. Charlize Theron returns to gleefully chow down on any nearby scenery, and Jessica Chastain and Blunt elevate proceedings simply by being on screen. But it’s a bummer seeing such talented actors faffing around with material this wispy.
The Huntsman: Winter’s War features several handsomely-composed shots, the odd vista, and displays of magic that unfurl like particularly nifty screensavers. But all that visual splendour can’t compensate for the lack of a compelling story, leaving a movie that is, as suspected, spectacularly unnecessary.