Huntsman prequel-sequel just doesn't work

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (Universal Pictures)

The Huntsman: Winter’s War (Universal Pictures)

The Huntsman: Winter's War is the PG-13 prequel-sequel to Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), acting as both prologue to the first installment and picking up where it left off. The beginning of the film takes place before the events of Snow White, providing a background story for Chris Hemsworth's titular Huntsman character, before jumping forward seven years to after the events of the first film in order to complete that story. Kristen Stewart's Snow White does not make an appearance in this film, although the character is referenced several times.

As I recall, the first film was decent, which probably was mainly due to the fact that the film took itself seriously - although, not so much that it came off as pretentious; the tone was dark, and a lot of characters and plot points that could've easily have been cartoon-y or exploited to appeal to the Twilight-reading fanfic types were instead played down, which I respected; and, as surprised as I was by this, I also respected their treatment of female characters. Stewart's Snow White - while still very much cold and lifeless long before she goes into her deep sleep - was never sexualized, or even really dolled up at all. Her Snow White was dirty through most of the film, and then the only other mental image I have is of her on horseback in armor; that worked well for me. Then, of course, there was Charlize Theron as the Evil Queen, Ravenna, whose defining characteristic in these films is her madness. In both the first film and its sequel, where she plays one of two villains, Theron harbors a fierce insanity behind her eyes, fueled by her insatiable lust for power. And even though she's playing an obsessively vain woman, she almost never has to exhibit her beauty or her sexuality through revealing clothing or a lot of cleavage; it's all in her movements, which are both sexy and dangerous in their delicacy.

Sad to say, these small but meaningful victories were lost in the sequel, which displayed a perfectly done-up Jessica Chastain as the warrior in leather pants and front-and-center cleavage. She plays the love interest for the Huntsman character, but, unfortunately, as with most romantic films, they experience misunderstandings that should be cleared up in minutes, but instead are allowed to run almost the full length of the film in order to create faux-conflicts. This is a cheap plot cop-out I can't stand, but I guess you could argue Hemsworth and Chastain have enough chemistry to pull it off.

Other than that, the film is largely mediocre, forfeiting any dark overtones the first film had any claims to, in place of even more dwarf jokes and an overall plot that's not so much bad, as it is very boring (which, to me, is worse). Not even the talents of the usually-great Emily Blunt as the Other Evil Queen could make up for all this film lacked. One out of 4 Miners for 123 minutes of mediocrity.