The film boasts jaw-dropping costumes, sets and production design, plus special effects-laden action sequences awash with rampaging goblins and a shape-shifting arch-villainess.
However, all of the slick, digitally rendered beauty cannot disguise uneven performances and a plodding script which cynically melds Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen and the Brothers Grimm to woo audiences, who hanker for a live-action version of Frozen.
Kristen Stewart is noticeably absent as Snow White, who appears fleetingly in flashback, but Chris Hemsworth and Charlize Theron reprise their roles as swaggering hero and scheming megalomaniac, on a collision course with destiny.
Scheming Queen Ravenna (Theron) rules over her realm with a steely glare, aided by the shape-shifting magic mirror.
Her kind-hearted younger sister, Freya (Emily Blunt), falls madly in love with the Duke of Blackwood (Colin Morgan), who is promised to another, and falls pregnant with his child. After the birth of a baby girl, the Duke torches the infant in its crib, unleashing a wave of grief and fury in Freya that transforms her into The Ice Queen.
Blunt’s solid portrayal of warped motherhood compensates for Theron’s campy theatrics that threaten to nudge a bloodthirsty conflict into the realms of pantomime. Damon Smith