Star Rating:

The Huntsman: Winter's War

Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Actors: Emily Blunt, Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain

Release Date: Monday 4th April 2016

Genre(s): Fantasy

Running time: 114 minutes

Beginning as a prequel and then evolving to a sequel to the surprise Kristen Stewart hit from a few years back, The Huntsman drops Stewart and its director and moves forward with the added awesome of Emily Blunt and Jessica Chastain.

Snow White and The Huntsman surprised everyone by actually being not just pretty good, but a box-office hit. It had a certain panache and grit that obviously came via the hand of newbie director Rupert Sanders; but when he and his leading lady appeared to have a highly publicised fling, Universal moved forward with another inexperienced helmer and hoped the charm of Chris Hemsworth - with a trio of exceptional actresses - would replicate that success... it doesn't.

Plodding along flatly for the majority of its running time, not even Chastain and Blunt can make this watchable - it's just another poorly executed blockbuster that wastes a talented cast.

It was always going to be tough to have this make sense as a franchise and not have Stewart return, but the sporadic inclusion of Charlize Theron does help - while Hemsworth and Blunt are always watchable. The director Nicolas-Troyan just never really finds a fluidity with the action sequences and fails to capitalise on the inkling of some sparks between Hemsworth and Chastain. It also all feels a bit silly; Snow White is mentioned multiple times yet never appears while the comic relief (some abrasive dwarves) feels more than a little forced.

Chastain is an effortlessly magnetic, generally superb actor who is playing an absolute badass. It's easy to see why she chose to play such a cool character, but she struggles with the Scottish accent. A more experienced helmer might've sensed that early on and addressed it, but she's left hanging here and it's not all her fault.

This never made sense as a franchise sans Snow White and Nicolas-Troyan doesn't appear to have an ounce of the flair Sanders did to distract from that. Also, a huge part of the attraction with the first was Stewart as Snow White - kicking ass. With that hook not available here, the film's box-office prospects could be grim.

Shawshank Redemption writer/director Frank Darabont was originally on board and we'll be left wondering what his version would've been like, had he too not bounced for that old chestnut "creative differences." Maybe it was rushed as a result, but regardless it's not great.

Disappointing for fans of the talented cast and a sloppyimitation of the first.