Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)

handg5Jacob // INDIFFERENT BannerHansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is yet another "grim-dark" reboots of a children's classic. Abandoning much of the former's themes of trust and betrayal, it focuses more on the "witch" aspect of the original story and tries to amp up the "sex appeal" and "witty one-liners." The films starts out with a quick retelling of Hansel and Gretel escaping from the gingerbread house as children, then rockets forward using the magic of a "several years later" spell and finds Gretel and Hansel (Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner, respectively), trying to save a town's missing children from the evil Muriel (Famke Janssen trying to pay-off her mortgage), who when she isn't rounding up kids for a super-secret witch ritual, likes to constantly monolog about Gretel and Hansel's mysterious past. Oh, and Pihla Viitala as Mina, who is totally not a witch at all how could you even suggest that? Sorry I almost forgot to mention her, but it seemed like writer/director Tommy Wirkola forgot about her most of the time, too.

Actually, as dismissive as that synospsis was, Hansel & Gretel really isn't that awful of a film. Don't get me wrong, it's a popcorn flick through-and-through, and utterly devoid of any themes deeper than "it's awesome when witches explode." It does, however, go in a few directions I at least found refreshing in the action/horror genre. First of all, Gretel is the star. When you think "action star", you're more likely to think of Jeremy Renner than Gemma Arterton, and so I was expecting Hansel to take point and leave Gretel for the "looking hot and being helpless" role that so many film heroines are shoved into. Instead, the film follows the Grimm original in that Hansel sort of plays second fiddle while Gretel remains the brains (and a good deal of the brawn) of the operation. Am I hailing this as the new trust of positive, strong female roles in action films? No, since the last "strong female" in leather pants I saw spent most of the film searching for a man to make her feel better, I'd say this is at least a baby step in the right direction.handg3Jeremy Renner as Hansel is a bit less interesting and a whole lot blander. It feels like he was written more as a sidekick to Arterton's Gretel, but his role was probably buffed up a bit because it's not called "Gretel and Hansel." His character building scenes aren't nearly as interesting to watch, which is probably why they threw a sex scene in there, too. The finished result seems to dilute both characters a bit. We really don't learn anything about Hansel or Gretel beyond "they miss their parents" and "they really hate their lives." Sadly, Tommy Wirkola went with the former plot thread as opposed to the far more interesting later and as a result we get glimpses of what might have been interspersed in an otherwise mediocre retreading. Oh, Hansel does have one sort of interesting character trait, though I don't know if I'd call it a spoiler or not. If you really want to know, I'll post about it in the comments section or something later.handg2Oh right, Famke Jenssen's in this film, too. Yeah, even her attempts at chewing up the scenery as evil witch Muriel are kind of half-assed. Rounding out the cast is Thomas Mann as the whiny nerd who somehow knows everything about our heroes, despite the Internet not having been invented yet, and Peter Stormare woefully under-utilized as the asshole sheriff who exists to just be a dick and sideline the plot whenever it gets interesting. I was expecting more from Stormare, who I guess does alright with the character he's got, it's just not that compelling of a foil for Hansel and Gretel. Mann's character, who's name I can't even be bothered to look up, is essentially a ye-olde fanboy who wants to be just like Hansel and Gretel when he grows up. Both Hansel and Gretel are just as disgusted with him as you will probably be watching him, but again, rather than do anything remotely fresh with this, he winds up being their plucky sidekick in what I can only assume will be the forthcoming CW series.

There's also something to be said about Hansel and Gretel's complete disinterest towards literally every other character and situation that presents itself. People fear them? Don't care. This nerd loves them? Don't care. They are stoic to the point of being bored by everything, but I suppose if you had been abandoned by your parents and spent the last 20 or so years of your life killing monsters, you'd probably be fairly deadened by the experience, too. Unfortunately, about 45 minutes in they forget that they don't care and switch up their half-assed detachment to doling out half-assed one-liners every time they kill a witch, which is quite a bit less interesting. It's a shame, too, as the detached mood make Hansel & Gretel almost feel like a send-up of the whole "gritty revamp" genre.

Hansel & Gretel really isn't that bad of a movie. I that's fairly hollow praise, but when the other films in your genre are Van HelsingResident Evil and the Underworld films, that's a far higher endorsement than it could be. The film could have been something special, but at the same time, it could have been something way worse.

Posted by Jacob

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