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Huntsman, The: Winter's War (3D)


Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Emily Blunt, Charlize Theron, Sheridan Smith, Rob Brydon, Nick Frost, Alexandra Roach, Sam Hazeldine, Sam Claflin

Director: Cedric Nicolas-Troyan

Awesomely well mounted and strongly cast, this is both prequel and sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman. These fantasy-adventures are the direct descendants of the Technicolor 'easterns' so popular in Hollywood 60 years ago, although their production design was never as crisp, colour-synchronised and impressive as this.

Ravenna (Theron), the evil queen from the first film (only seen here at the beginning and end) is dead (sort of), but her sister Freya, a role in which Blunt excels, unhinged by seeing her infant daughter burnt alive in her cot by her betrothed (Claflin) under a spell, has become an ice queen, pillaging all surrounding regions and taking their children to be trained as huntsmen.

Two (Hemsworth and Chastain) fall in love, which is forbidden in Freya's icy kingdom. 'Love is cruel,' she says, 'and a trick.' Separated by Freya's ice (she has the same powers as Elsa in Frozen), Chastain appears to be killed while Hemsworth is hurled into a raging river.

The story now takes us forward after the action of the previous film, as Hemsworth's The Huntsman, secure in Snow White's kingdom, senses a new menace from the Magic Mirror and sets out to destroy it and Freya's kingdom with it.

There's lots of action, although it's too fiercely edited to really stir the blood, and comedy relief too, with Smith, Brydon, Frost and Roach enjoying themselves as a quartet of dwarfs who accompany The Huntsman on his quest; Smith is especially eye-catching as you might expect.

Hemsworth speaks in a sort of strangulated Sean Connery, which actually works quite well once you get used to it; it's a lot better than Chastain's attempt at more conventional Scottish. And, good though Blunt is, you do get the feeling that her role and Chastain's might have been better cast the other way round.

It's all red-blooded fun, although way too scary for younger kids, as the woman who brought her five-year-old daughter to the preview and sat in the front row doubtless found out.

David Quinlan

USA 2016. UK Distributor: Universal. Technicolor.
112 minutes. Widescreen. UK certificate: 12A.

Guidance ratings (out of 3): Sex/nudity 1, Violence/Horror 1, Drugs 0, Swearing 1.

Review date: 04 Apr 2016