Fairytales were never as complicated as this in the days when kids might have actually believed in them, surely. Arriving as the prequel to 2012’s Snow White And The Huntsman, which I had happily consigned to oblivion, it is a sorry mish-mash of infanticide, bitter sisterly envy and, of course, megalomaniacal schemes to rule the kingdoms of Fantasyland – but that’s only if you could be bothered to try to keep up with the Byzantine script. My concentration waned early on, partly because it jags all over the place without ever settling on a steady through-line, and instead contented myself by finding some pleasure in the quest for the big, circular golden mirror. This is by far the movie’s most engaging component, primarily because it is free of the overwrought theatrics of the icy princess Freya (Emily Blunt) and the wicked Ravenna (Charlise Theron).
It is the job of the Huntsman (Chris Hemsworth) to get hold of the mirror, and on his mission he is aided and abetted by Sara (Jessica Chastain) who, now that the girls have at last been given the opportunity to share in the gory glory that has become a mandatory feature of mainstream holiday fare, goes blow for blow with him against their enemies in the tedious fight scenes. Speaking in a strange accent that sounds like it’s from Scotland via Cornwall, Hemsworth is a tremendously charismatic performer who saves the movie by taking a tongue-in-cheek approach to his part, and he is well supported in levity by the dwarfs Nion and Gryff (Nick Frost and Rob Brydon).
The CGI employed to shrink the two actors (and their mounts) is faultless – at no time is your suspension of disbelief threatened by reason – and their banter provides almost enough comic relief to lift proceedings out the trough of boredom. It’s even better when the crew is joined by the female dwarfs, Bromwyn and Doreena (Sheridan Smith and Alexandra Roach), but overall the end could not have come soon enough for me.