Posted January 21, 2013 by Nicolo Parungo in Movies/TV

Movie Review: Hansel and Gretel – Witch Hunters

For the past few years Hollywood has had an odd affinity for “re-imagining” stories from our childhood, of course when I say re-imagining I mean straight up butchering said stories into poorly made movies with little respect for the original source material. Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland had a sword wielding Alice, a break dancing Mad Hatter and an amalgam version of the Red Queen and Queen of Hearts who sadly did not do the fusion dance seen in Dragon Ball Z (BOO!). Red Riding Hood (because she wasn’t little in the movie) had lame generic werewolves and no awesome cunning regular wolves who can put on an old lady’s dress and can convince a little girl to get eaten by him. Snow White and the Huntsman featured no dwarves, but plenty of Kristen Stewart. Hansel and Gretel – Witch Hunters, looked like it would continue this trend, but doesn’t because, the original story is (mostly) intact and because it’s AWESOME.

At the movie premiere of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

For those not familiar with the original story fear not, because it’s the first scene in the movie but with an added twist. Hansel and Gretel don’t wander into the forest; they’re brought to it by their father while their mom stays behind for unknown reasons, the dad goes back and never returns leaving our main characters cold and lonely in the woods. From there everything remains intact; they stumble into a candy house, start eating said house, get captured by witch who lives in the candy house, who then tries to eat them, fails and gets thrown into the stove. They then decide to become witch hunters and get super attractive as Hansel becomes Jeremy Renner and Gretel becomes Gemma Arterson. Also one of them gets Diabetes, like for real. Flash forward to a couple of years later (when they become super attractive) and they’re now professional witch hunters who have built up quite a reputation, though they’ve seemingly fought and killed every witch out there they are now tasked with finding out why the witches have been kidnapping more children than usual, and it may be connected to their past. Cue dramatic music!

The story doesn’t really break new ground, but it is interesting for the most part though somewhat predictable, it’s also pretty fast paced after the opening scene which is fine. The movie was obviously designed for some bloody fun and the quick pace works though it does slow down a bit in the middle, which I’ll get into later. While you can guess how the story goes, there are probably some things that will catch you off guard and will genuinely surprise you in a good way. There were a bunch of times when I felt I had guessed what would happen, but would end up completely wrong. It’s not full of surprises, but it does have quite a few.

One smart decision made by the writers was to have the main characters be experienced witch hunters, the opening credits does a good job showing them gain their reputation and is animated well. Having them be seasoned also means less melodrama and more ass kicking and jokes which I greatly appreciate. Another smart decision was the film not taking itself too seriously, there are a couple of melodramatic moments which I’ll get into in a bit, but there are also numerous jokes most of which are funny and hit you when you least expect it, some of them even happen in the various fight scenes in the film all of which are well choreographed and very very bloody. DO NOT TAKE YOUR GRANDMA TO THIS FILM you guys, admittedly the gore is played up for laughs, but the squeamish should still be advised.

The special effects are all around great, they definitely help spice up the fight scenes, and the witches use tons of magic so thankfully the spells look great. Visually it’s an alright movie, while spells and blood look great the witches could have used some consistency. I’ll keep this as spoiler free as possible, but basically the witches that appear later in the movie, look scary while the witches that appear earlier are uglier than my butt.

The jokes in the film are great and really pop up out of nowhere. And it’s great! A couple of times the movie seemed like it would take a turn for the serious then bam! A joke appears out of nowhere faster than a Zubat in Mt. Moon; they are thankfully a welcome part of the movie and are well thought of. The humor ranges from random, to cartoony and toilet humor, but they’re all good for the most part unlike Zubats. You only need one Zubat, just one and the rest are just a pain in the neck. Ugh, screw you Zubat, why can’t you be like the jokes of this movie?

Of course when the strength of the film is Fights, Jokes and Gore there may not be room for strong characterization. That’s not the case, while neither character is to compelling they are at least given some depth which I greatly appreciate. Gretel is still wondering why their parents abandoned them, even having nightmares about it while Hansel chooses to not even think about it, he doesn’t even allow himself to get close to other characters unless it’s his sister. While the added depth is appreciated the execution isn’t always great, there are various flashbacks to the opening scene (which actually reuse footage from said scene. Ugh) which try to add to their backstory, but it hinders the fun tone of the film and makes for some un-needed melodrama, especially the big mystery of what really happened to their parents. It’s groan-inducing. I appreciate the effort though, some depth is better than no depth, but the execution is kinda weak. Of course while the heroes’ getting some depth is nice the other characters are rather forgettable save the antagonist Muriel played by the lovely Famke Jannsen. (Who I REALLY need to stop calling Jean Grey)

While the main characters aren’t too compelling they are quite likable thanks to Renner and Arterton. Renner’s performance as Hansel is great; while the role doesn’t really explore his emotional range he is good at cracking jokes and trying to avoid conversations with the other characters, his frustration with their obsessive fan boy Ben (played by Thomas Mann) is a highlight and is also pretty amusing, he also adds to the character when he acts immature, whether he argues with his sister or is talking about killing swamp witches while in a lake with a naked woman, Renner is Heehee-larious, he also plays a bad-ass pretty well and it’s a shame he wasn’t able to show this side of him as Hawkeye in the Avengers movie. His personality traits here are quite similar to the arrowed Avenger in the comics and it’s a shame he was portrayed as somewhat bland there, he’s perfect for Clint Barton.

Gemma Arterton on the other hand struggles with being a bad-ass, I’m not sure if it’s her accent but her deliveries of various swear words sound unnatural and forced. She’s also not very good with threats or insults, but when she interacts with Renner or is social with the various (and forgettable) supporting characters she does a fine job and is much better here than in Prince of Persia. She also seems to have more emotional range than Renner as she can switch from snarky, to sad, to angry easily while Renner only seems to switch from cool to angry. This isn’t a rip on Renner’s acting skills as he plays the more likable of the two characters, but Arterton’s role seemed to get more out of the actress then his role did for him.

Jean- I mean Famke Jannsen is absolutely perfect for the role of Muriel, it seems like she was born to play a classic bwa-hahaha villain. Her performance here is great; she honestly wouldn’t look out of place as a Bond villain or even an Adam West era Batman villain, seriously you guys! I would pay to see her put Batman on an elaborate death trap while she discusses her plan to replace all of Gotham’s chocolates with Tofu treats. She’s that awesome; which is downright shocking considering how well she plays good girls (X-men 1 and 2, Hide and Seek, Taken 2) if she had this much character as Dark Phoenix in that God awful X-men movie (X-men: The Last Stand burn burn buuuurrrrrnnnnn) then it wouldn’t have been truly awful. It still would have been awful though, but not God awful.

The other characters are rather forgettable so I’m gonna lump them into one paragraph, Thomas Mann is fine as Ben the fan boy but barely does anything and is kinda annoying. Pihla Viitala as Mina is a living, breathing plot device whose only purpose seems to be giving Hansel a boner and something else that’s spoiler-ish. She’s not bad, but she’s not great either. Sheriff Berringer (played by Peter Stormare) is downright annoying, his character is an obstacle for the sake of giving the characters something to overcome, he’s even worse than Mina as his character doesn’t really have a reason to hate Hansel or Gretel aside from one of them breaking his nose (watch the movie to know which one of them does it :P) and even before that he’s still a big jerk.

Of course what the movie lacks in compelling characters more than makes up for it in Bloody fights, plenty of jokes and awesome weapons. Hansel and Gretel – Witch Hunters is far from perfect but it’s good, clean (ermm bloody?) fun and is a proper way to re-imagine a movie without completely butchering it.  Lastly, it looks great in IMAX.

A big thanks to Solar UIP Philippines for the invite!


Nicolo Parungo