© Universal Pictures International Germany GmbH

The Huntsman & The Ice Queen (The Huntsman: Winter's War)
U.S.A. 2016

Opening 7 Apr 2016

Directed by: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan
Writing credits: Evan Spiliotopoulos, Craig Mazin, Evan Daugherty
Principal actors: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Nick Frost

The Huntsman & The Ice Queen, a prequel of sorts to 2012's box-office bonanza Snow White & The Huntsman, is a fantastical action film mashup of iconic fairy tales, loosely drawing on the Grimm Brothers' Snow White and Hans Christian Andersen's Snow Queen. Charlize Theron is Ravenna, the beautiful yet heartless evil queen, who harnesses the power of a magic mirror. Within the first few moments of the film she's murdered her husband, taken control of the kingdom, and orchestrated a devastating blow to her little sister Freya (Emily Blunt). This tragedy simultaneously breaks Freya's heart and unleashes her icy powers, and Freya takes control of her own frozen kingdom, where she trains kidnapped children to become her army. 

The film carries on for another hour and a half, but the plot is completely beside the point. Let's just say it involves star-crossed lovers (Jessica Chastain and Chris Hemsworth), a bunch of dwarves (including the comedic actor Rob Brydon), fighting and more fighting, and endless special effects. The director, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan, was the visual effects supervisor on Snow White &The Huntsman, and he's clearly versed in giving viewers lots of bang for their visual buck. And it can't be denied that it's fun to watch Ravenna's face melting or Freya's fingers shooting out ice (although Disney's Frozen did a more imaginative job in this department). But it's also tiring to be bombarded; and with very little storyline to care about, it gets old very quickly.

With three strong female leads -- girl power! -- this could have been an entirely different kind of film -- an interesting one that considered those old Machiavellian traits of cunning and duplicity in the hands of the fairer sex. (Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?) Instead it feels like watching a video game in the age of short attention spans, and no amount of special effects can overcome that. (Diana Schnelle)

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