As two evil sisters prepare to conquer the land, two renegades – Eric the Huntsman – who aided Snow White in defeating Ravenna in Snowwhite and the Huntsman, and his forbidden lover, Sara, set out to stop them.
It’s a tale of two royal sisters, one of whom discovers in a fit of rage that she has the ability to shoot ice from her fingertips—so she exiles herself to a faraway land in the mountains, where she creates her own kingdom and builds her own army. She even wears decadent gowns in various shades of pale blue and pulls her hair back in elaborate braids.
Seriously. This is what “Winter’s War” is about.
But before you can say “let it go,” this sorta-prequel, sorta-sequel, sorta-something-in-between to 2012’s “Snow White and the Huntsman” trots out several other subplots, all of which combine to make a messy (and less-than-magical) narrative.
The original film worked as a dark take on the familiar “Snow White” fable, with breathtakingly beautiful, brutal imagery and a richly villainous turn from Charlize Theron as the wicked queen. It was thrilling yet empty, but at least it had focus and kept you engaged. This time, first-time feature director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan (taking over for Rupert Sanders) has trouble juggling all the scattered storylines in Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin’s script.
Is “Winter’s War” about a rivalry between two sisters, the dastardly Ravenna (Theron) and the devastated Freya (Emily Blunt)? Is it about the forbidden love between Freya’s two top soldiers, huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and hell-raiser Sara (Jessica Chastain)? Is it about Snow White, who’s mentioned with great reverence but is seen only a couple times in the briefest, vaguest of glimpses? (Unlike Theron and Hemsworth, Kristen Stewart does not return for part two, despite having been the title character in part one. Even my six-year-old kid thought that seemed weird.) Or is it about the squabbling, digitally-rendered dwarfs (Nick Frost and Rob Brydon) who serve as comic relief?
The only cohesive force is a pervasive sense of self-serious dreariness. With the exception of a brief visit to a forest full of fairy sprites and vibrantly-hued creatures, “Winter’s War” is as monotonously somber as the title would suggest.