Long before Ravenna (Charlize Theron) had her encounter with Eric, the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth), her sister, Freya (Emily Blunt) lived with her. A tragedy brought about Freya’s powers. Now, unbelieving in love, she runs her new kingdom as the Ice Queen.
As the Ice Queen, Freya seeks to “liberate” children. A young Eric is one of the children living with her. Eric is trained to be a Huntsman, tasked with finding children to bring to her kingdom. Eric and Sara (Jessica Chastain) are the best Huntsmen working for Freya.
Fast forward several years later, Eric has defeated Ravenna. He is living alone in the woods. However, Ravenna’s magic mirror has been taken from Snow White’s castle. Eric, along with dwarves Nion (Nick Frost) and Gryff (Rob Brydon), is now tasked with finding the mirror and taking it to the Sanctuary, where it will be safe from anyone who may plan to use it for evil purposes.
Facing off against goblins and other perils, Eric and his dwarves get some unexpected help and face unexpected evils.
The cast is stacked with acting powerhouses. Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, and Charlize Theron are all more than capable actors. That is, when they are given good material to work with. Set “in the north,” Hemsworth and Chastain take on an Scottish accent. While this fits with the setting, it doesn’t always work well. Hemsworth doing an Scottish accent on top of his Australian accent becomes distracting. I don’t fault Chris for this. I put that solely on directing choices. Aside from that, everyone performs as well as they can with what they have been given.
The story is where I take issue. Given the traumatic experiences of his days with Freya, Eric would have been deeply impacted. That is what makes this franchise so unbelievable. There was no mention of anything that happens prior to his encounter with Ravenna during the original film. You can’t just throw in this horrific back story after the fact and hope it sticks.
Much like the first film, Winter’s War is a very dark film. As mentioned above, it seems to have taken note of the popularity of Game of Thrones. The battle and many of the action scenes are very intense.
The other issue is the pace of the film. The first half is a lot of build up. It takes far too long to get to the action. In fact, it isn’t until the final showdown at the end of the film that we really get to the meat of the action. Along the way, we are given unnecessary side stories that add nothing to the overall narrative.
As I warned with Snow White and the Huntsman, this is not a movie for children. Yes, it has its roots in classic fairy tale favorites, but that is where the connection ends. With its painfully slow pace and lack of a real narrative, it is a story that didn’t need to be told.