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Review – The Huntsman: Winter’s War -“Punchy, perky, and just easy fun”

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The Huntsman is a sequel to 2012’s Snow White and the Huntsman. Original director, Rupert Sanders, and star, Kristen Stewart, do not return – but man slash God, Chris Hemsworth, is back in the title role to once again face Charlize Theron’s evil Queen Ravenna.

The Huntsman begins as a prequel film that shows Chris Hemsworth’s character’s origins, as well as those of new villain Freya (Emily Blunt) – Ravenna’s younger sister. Freya is a regular girl, not yet exhibiting any of her older sister’s magic or darkness. That changes when her betrothed-to-another lover (Merlin’s Colin Morgan) murders their illegitimate daughter.

Freya is furious and Elsa’s out – transforming into a fearsome, yet heartbroken, Snow Queen decked out in a clinky classy ice gown and taking refuge from the world in a foreboding frozen palace in the North. As power hungry as her sister, Freya recruits a child army and trains them over the years into a fearsome fighting force: The Huntsmen.

Two of these young fighters grow up to be THE Huntsman (Hemsworth) and Sara (Jessica Chastain). They, of course, fall in love but this has been made illegal by Freya and she splits the two up – making Sara believe The Huntsman abandoned her, and The Huntsman believe that Sara is dead.

We then flash forward to after the events of Snow White and the Huntsman to find our hero chilling in Snow White’s now peaceful kingdom. An off-screen Snow White gives him a perilous quest: to retrieve the stolen Mirror Mirror on the Wall before it falls into Freya’s hands. Also defeating Freya and the recently arisen Ravenna, hooking back up with Sara, and trying to keep the dwarves who will tag along (Nick Frost and Rob Brydon) alive would be a bonus.

Winter’s War often skirts perilously close to pantomime, but HemsPHWOARth’s buckets of charisma, the close-to-fourth-wall-breaking comedy of the dwarves, and twin lethal regal performances from a chilling Blunt and murderous Theron keep the film light, punchy, perky, and just easy fun.

Chastain’s Sara is a true badass warrior woman who proves to be twice the fighter The Huntsman is, as well as not just taking him back like he assumes she will. Her furious nature is slightly undercut by the fact that her red hair, archery talent and accent make her an amusingly dead ringer for Brave’s Merida.

There is plenty of action featuring excellent elemental and creature CG, and fights full of rhythm, imagination and headbutting. The central romance of Sara and The Huntsman rings true, although as hot as they are together, the odd line or two is rendered impenetrable by some shockingly all over the place accents.

Frost and Brydon’s dialogue feels almost improvised at times, drawing plenty of unexpectedly large belly laughs, but their visual representation is surprisingly poor: dodgy make-up – especially on poor Brydon – and full-size heads shrunk to half-pint bodies that never really integrate into scenes realistically.

What could have been a messy cash-in sequel that no-one asked for is made truly and easily enjoyable by the half charming, half chilling, foursome of Hemsworth and Chastain, and Blunt and Theron. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a fun frozen 3D fairytale full of romance and action.

3.5-out-of-5

The Huntsman: Winter’s War is out in cinemas tomorrow.

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