Is it really possible to keep Snow White away from the sequel to the movie that featured her evolution from incarcerated step-child of deranged witch-queen Ravenna to fierce warrior and ruler? The obvious reply has eluded the producers of the follow-up of Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), who have issued a new production that does not feature Snow White except in silhouette and instead focuses on the cat fight between Ravenna (Charlize Theron) and her sister, the ice queen Freya (Emily Blunt). Except for an impressive collection of gowns and striking visual effects, Cedric Nicolas-Troyan’s sequel has nothing to recommend.

Moral outrage over the widely reported affair between director Rupert Sanders and actress Kristen Stewart during the production of Snow White and the Huntsman led to both being dropped from the sequel. The new movie begins with an awkward voiceover that attempts to justify Snow White’s disappearance before revealing the back story of huntsman Eric (Chris Hemsworth) and his wife Sara (Jessica Chastain). Reared as children to fight in Freya’s army, they somehow escape being tainted by her misanthropy, which is brought on by her child’s murder by its father. Seven years later, during which Snow White has killed Ravenna in large part due to the help of the huntsman and the seven dwarves, Ravenna’s magic mirror goes missing, promoting Eric to team up with a new set of dwarves and Sara, who is alive and kicking in a very literal sense.

Since the logic of the franchise never allows corpses to crumble to dust, Ravenna too returns as the pantomime queen. Blunt’s chilly performance is a welcome foil to Theron’s histrionics, but the bond between the sisters is about as convincing as the icicle-laden romance between Eric and Sara. Chastain is miscast as a woman of arms, and Hemsworth mumbles his lines in his attempt to affect a broad English accent. There’s a greater frisson between Eric and Bromwyn, Sheridan Smith’s spunky female dwarf. Bromwyn casts appreciative glances Eric’s way, and a less-blinkered story might have entertained the possibility of a union between the two, but this movie isn’t The Huntsman and the Dwarf. (Not that we are suggesting another sequel).