The Huntsman: Winter’s War traffics pretty well exclusively in clichés. Oh, you can point to Frozen – Emily Blunt’s ice queen, the ‘power of love’ – or Lord of the Rings – there’s a golden circle emblazoned with Elvish runes that drives people to murder and dwarven comic relief (Nick Frost, Sheridan Smith, Rob Brydon) – but it seems unfair to limit its scope to a handful of recent movies when it’s elbow-deep in a host of different fantasy tropes.
Now, as you might expect from a prequel-slash-sequel to a film best remembered for Kristen Stewart’s affair with the director, a good proportion of those clichés don’t land. The first half hour, for instance, offers a fairytale-cum-high-fantasy avalanche of exposition that’s both too rushed and too long.
But it’s …not …entirely …awful? Like, when the film gives itself over to Chris Hemsworth’s goofball charm – particularly in a Princess Bride-esque adventure – it’s a lot of fun! And the climax pays off Blunt and Charlize Theron’s Ru Paul’s Drag Race get-ups with a scenery-chewing showdown where they read one another with extreme prejudice. There’re enough glints of gold shining through the familiar muck to not totally dismiss Winter’s War. But you’ve seen it before – and better.