"You’ll look great at the inaugural ball, Chelsea."
"You’ll look great at the inaugural ball, Chelsea."

Four years ago, when Snow White and the Huntsman came out, Kristen Stewart was all the rage. The film made lots of money, and it looked like the former Bella had a new franchise on her hands.

Not so fast. Kristen, in a moment of shameful and delicious wickedness, made out in public—well, in front of somebody’s unauthorized camera, anyway—with that film’s married director, much to the chagrin of then boyfriend Robert Pattinson and, consequently, her fan base. Plans for a sequel starring her were scrapped, and a whole new plan featuring her costar and budding movie giant Chris Hemsworth (Thor!) were hatched.

What producers didn’t realize at the time is that Hemsworth basically sucks whenever he’s doing anything other than playing Thor. Blackhat, In the Heart of the Sea, Vacation, and now this mighty slice of hell are proof of this.

While Snow White was no creative party, it was a tolerable misfire. The Huntsman: Winter’s War is a star-studded absolute mess. It’s a worthless slog of a sequel/prequel. It probably looked good on paper or around the pitch table, but the finished product plays like a drunken, straining Renaissance Festival where the organizer was strung out on heroin.

Because sorcery and magic mirrors were involved in the original, Charlize Theron can return as the evil Ravenna even though she was dead. Because Stewart is gone, there’s enough money for two new stars, so in come Emily Blunt as Queen Freya and Jessica Chastain as Sara. And, of course, you have Thor on hand as the Huntsman, the most useless, banal role this guy has taken on in his mostly useless and banal career.

All of this talent on hand, and what you get are the two main villainesses talking all slow and evil as if they were related to the elves from the Hobbit movies, and Hemsworth garbling all his lines through some sort of Scottish accent. (Note to directors: Hemsworth is capable of U.S. and his native Australian accents. Attempt other accents at your own peril.)

The plot involves some sort of bullshit involving the magic mirror that allows Ravenna to come back. Don’t worry, Ravenna takes the time to explain just how she can come back and how she’s only sort of dead, but not really. Actually, go ahead and worry, because it doesn’t make much sense, even with her detailed, slow, deliberately paced explanation.

The movie actually starts some years before the first movie, with Freya all excited about having a baby with some married dude. An unfortunate event inexplicably turns her into an ice queen, and she freezes a bunch of the countryside (echoes of Disney’s Frozen). The movie then jumps over the events of Snow White and into a new, sequel type adventure. So it’s a sequel and a prequel, all in one.

It’s unfortunate to see Blunt embarrass herself like this, slumming in a Frozen rip-off. She’s coming off the triumph of Sicario and Edge of Tomorrow. Then again, Into the Woods sucked too, so Blunt’s agents need to keep her far away from fairy tale films. Theron, who has a mostly impressive track record, sometimes shows up in clunkers, so her presence is no surprise, and should buy her another decent house. Chastain is clearly looking for a franchise, and she’s not going to get it here.

Hemsworth certainly has movie star looks, and he’s perfectly fine when he’s playing exaggerated forms of himself. He’s possibly the worst actor on the planet when it comes to leaving his safety zone, doing difficult accents, and emoting. Basically, if he’s not wielding Thor’s hammer, he’s usually horrendous.

The lesson here, I guess, is that if you have Kristen Stewart in your movie, and she makes out with the director, don’t kick her out of your franchise. Give her a raise!

Christ, you’re in Hollywood, and all bets are off as to who’s doing whom. Yes, Stewart often just coasts on her worried, concerned, huffy face in movies like this, but at least she’s intelligible, which is more than I can say for marble-mouthed Hemsworth.

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