Careful what you wish for. When it was announced that Jessica Chastain and Emily Blunt would be joining Charlize Theron and Chris Hemsworth for the follow-up to 2012's humdrum action-fairy-tale Snow White and the Huntsman, many filmgoers, myself included, got unduly excited. The second film, featuring a new cast and story, seemed to presage a new beginning. And the idea of three of our finest actresses hissing and bellowing and making those wavy-magic-hand-gesture thingies at each other while decked out in elaborate medieval fantasy regalia … well, it seemed like it might be something special.
The film absolutely delivers on the scenery-chewing front. And yet, it's still hollow and joyless. It opens on the beautiful Ravenna (Theron) seducing and killing her way to the throne of a new kingdom. Her sister Freya (Blunt) isn't quite as ruthless. Soon enough, the new queen engineers a harrowing heartbreak for her sister. This both puts Freya in touch with her secret power -- she can instantly transform the people and things around her into ice -- and turning her against the very idea of love. She seizes a kingdom in the north and begins raising an army of stolen children. Among them are young warriors Eric and Sarah, who will grow up to be Hemsworth and Chastain. Very illegally in love, the two fall afoul of Freya, and let's just say it doesn't end well.
Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan has a facility with the storybook-like visuals and a nice handle on the actors, but nothing seems to have any weight or consequence. It's a quest narrative where nobody cares about the quest, a war movie where nobody cares about the war.