"The Huntsman: Winter's War" stars Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, and Charlize Theron. Released on April 22, 2016, the film has the huntsman and his forbidden love joining forces to take down the ice queen and her sister, the evil queen.
The film features the directorial debut of Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, who served as a visual effects supervisor for Snow White and the Huntsman. It is classified as a spin-off to the 2012 fantasy film. Well, technically, it's more of a prequel/sequel/spin-off to Snow White and the Huntsman. When I first heard that they're making a film on just the Huntsman, I was quite suspicious on how it will turn out since I enjoyed the first film four years ago. I wasn't really excited for this film, but I knew that it would be interesting to watch.
In case you want to know why I classified this film as a prequel/sequel/spin-off, let's just say that the story arc consists of a prequel during the first act and then a sequel that focuses on the title character throughout the rest of the film. So yeah, it's a tale before and after Snow White. The performances in the film were decent. Chris Hemsworth reprised his role as Eric, the huntsman who goes on a quest to recover the Magic Mirror. I thought he did a nice job portraying his character, although I like him better as Thor than as the Huntsman. He is joined forces with his former love, Sara, played by Jessica Chastain (who was pretty good), and his dwarf friends, Gryff (Rob Brydon) and Nion (Nick Frost). The dwarfs are often the comic relief of the film due to its dark tone. Another new character introduced in the film was Freya, the ice queen (played by Emily Blunt), also known as Elsa #2. She is also the evil queen's sister, in case you haven't noticed already. She did all right with her role, but man, her character is such a jerk when it comes to love. I get that what happened in the first act made her like this, but come on. Charlize Theron also reprised her role as the evil queen and compared to her solid performance in the first film, her performance in this one was OK. The film did a nice job retaining the tone and style of the first film, especially its visual effects and production design. The visuals can be a bit noticeable at times, but very solid nonetheless. Did I mention that the film is directed by a visual effects supervisor? For his first film as a director, I thought Nicolas-Troyan did all right with his direction. It's not perfect, by any means, but it's not worse either.
The film's execution on the story was a mixed bag. It was interesting to see how Eric became a huntsman, but the sequel/spin-off section came off as decent and predictable. I also found the third act to be a bit underwhelming and anticlimactic. But it is fun seeing Chris Hemsworth kicking butt with his axes.
Overall, while the story is as frozen as the ice queen's heart, "The Huntsman: Winter's War" is an enjoyable prequel/sequel/spin-off that explores a bit beyond the world of Snow White. The performances were decent, especially Hemsworth, the visuals and production design were solid, and the direction was passable. I would probably recommend it to those who are in a mood for a fantasy action film, but chances are they might like it less than its predecessor.