Movie review: "Winter's War" is prequel/sequel no one wanted in the first place

Brad Keefe, Columbus Alive

The problem with Hollywood isn't just that they're out of ideas. Sometimes those ideas are horrible.

Take for example 2012's "Snow White and the Huntsman," a bizarrely self-serious reimagination of the Snow White fairy tale as an action movie.

"Snow White" was bouncing off Kristen Stewart's fame, casting her in the title role in her first major movie following the "Twilight" saga. It did moderately well at the summer box office, but it also had a massive budget, and was a net loss.

All of this is to say this isn't exactly a sequel people were clamoring for, and yet here we are.

"The Huntsman: Winter's War" removes Snow White from the title for a reason. Stewart is not in this movie, and Snow White only serves a tangential role.

Making matters even more confusing: "Winter's War" is a prequel. Until it's a sequel. It's actually set on both sides of the events of the first movie (which isn't required viewing to see this if you're still so inclined).

This time we are following the backstory of the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth). Well, sort of. We find out how he came to be, I guess, and we meet his also ass-kicking wife Sara (Jessica Chastain).

We also get some more of the backstory of our evil queen, Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and how a rift with her sister Freya (Emily Blunt) led to the latter leaving to start her own evil queendom. Talk about sibling rivalry!

Director Cedric Nicolas-Troyan - helming his first feature after leading visual effects on "Snow White" - tries to cram everything he can onscreen to see what sticks. It turns out not much.

The icy sister aspect adds a dash of "Frozen." The action sequences and overall seriousness aim for "Lord of the Rings"/"Game of Thrones." There's some comic relief, which of course comes in the form of dwarves.

Even a pretty stellar cast - losing Stewart doesn't exactly hurt that - can't salvage this. Theron is still enjoying her evil vamping, but being in "Max Max: Fury Road" in between just reminds us she's better. The generally terrific Blunt is less-than-terrific. And Chastain joins Hemsworth in adopting a distracting, not-quite-Scottish accent.

So generally you have a movie that's not very good that no one was really excited about in the first place. You can do better.

"The Huntsman:

Winter's War"

Opens Friday

2 stars out of 4