THE HUNTSMAN: WINTER'S WAR (12A) 117 mins. Starrings Charlize Theron, Emily Blunt, Chris Hemsworth, Jessica Chastain, Nick Frost and Sheridan Smith.

MIRROR, mirror on the wall, who's the fairest of them all?

Alas, not Cedric Nicolas-Troyan's functional prequel-cum-sequel to the 2012 fantasy Snow White And The Huntsman, which promises a yarn "that comes long before happily ever after".

The Huntsman: Winter's War 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 by Evan Spiliotopoulos and Craig Mazin, 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.

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 in the south 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.

Shortly 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.

She moves north, establishes her own kingdom and kidnaps children from nearby villages to mould into an army of heartless soldiers.

It can only end in tears - and not the baby's