Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Review: Whedonites Assemble!

Ummm excuse me, my crossbow's down here

Ummm excuse me, my crossbow’s down here

I got the chance to catch a pre-screening of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters tonight after a very broad spectrum of anticipation for the project.  When I first heard of it, I was mildly intrigued as I’m a huge Jeremy Renner fan (and a huge fan of Gemma Arteron’s angel-level-gorgeousness) and I tend to enjoy tongue-in-cheek, whimsical action flicks.  Once the first trailer came out, I became a lot less interested as it seemed like it was going to try to take itself too seriously for a movie with such a ridiculous title and premise.  However, when I learned that the movie was directed by Tommy Wirkola, the man responsible for the truly inspired Nazi Zombie horror flick Dead Snow, I switched my Anticipatron 3000 to “Let’s see where this goes…”  Luckily, whereas last year’s similarly titled Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter faltered by taking itself too seriously, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters takes the kind of fun, zany tone you’d expect by an action movie produced by Will Ferrel and Adamn McKay.  Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters plays out like an extended, R-Rated version of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, but I am totally on board with that.

The Plot: 

99 problems but a Witch ain't one

99 problems but a Witch ain’t one

In this spin on the fairy tale, Hansel & Gretel are now bounty hunters who track and kill witches all over the world. As the fabled Blood Moon approaches, the siblings encounter a new form of evil that might hold a secret to their past.

The movie actually goes a lot more than I thought it would into Hansel & Gretel’s origin story.  While I can fully understand how some people might find it to be the most predictable part of the movie, I thought it was absolutely fine.  After all, in a movie with this sort of title you’d usually only expect the plot to act as a simple clothesline on which you hang up a bunch of fight scenes and one liner-heavy dialogue, so I didn’t mind the relative amount of predictability the film features at times.

The Players:

I know what my couples costume is going to be this year...

I know what my couples costume is going to be this year…

The main thing that works about HGWH (as I will now refer to it) is how fun it is to watch Renner and Ateron as Hansel and Gretel.  Aside from wielding some comically steampunk artillery, Hansel and Gretel have some great chemistry together for which I’ll admit Renner takes most of the credit.  They did occasionally feel like a little more than brother and sister at times, but maybe I’ve just been watching a bit too much Game of Thrones lately.  As a side note, I’ll admit (with the full knowledge that my girlfriend will probably read this) that Gemma Arteron’s skin-tight leather pants are nearly enough reason to recommend this movie on their own.

Also, my absolute favorite part of the movie is when it is essentially revealed that the Witch from the candy house made Hansel diabetic by making him eat too much candy, and this is his “Achilles Heel”.  This should explain a bit to you about my sense of humor.

Say Hello to my Not-So-Little friend

Say Hello to my Not-So-Little friend

Peter Stormare also pops up in a role that can’t help but feel like the exact same character he played in The Brothers Grimm, but I suppose we should come to expect that from him by now.  We also have additional eye-candy slash attempt-to-prove-that-Hansel-and-Gretel-aren’t-Lannisters in Mina (Pihla Viitala), a woman who becomes friendly with Hansel after him and his sister save her from being accused of witchcraft in a scene that can’t help but bring Monty Python and the Holy Grail to mind.

From Jean Grey to Phoenix in nothing flat

From Jean Grey to Phoenix in nothing flat

Finally, amid a huge assortment of grotesquary in the witches’ camp, we have chief Baddy and Covergirl Before-and-After-Picture Famke Janssen as the dark witch, Muriel.  Famke’s going to have to do a lot better than this to make me forget about how terrible she  was in Taken 2, but her over-the-top brand of evil feels appropriate for the film.  All she needed was a mustache to twirl.

The Writing:

Stop!  ...  Shoveltime

Stop! … Shovel Time

Regarding the subtitle of this movie, as I said before this feels like a Whedon production at every turn.  If you haven’t seen Buffy the Vampire Slayer any time soon, I’d recommend giving it a try with the knowledge that it took me about six episodes or so to start loving it. If you are a fan of that series like me, however, I can tell you that there are a lot of similarities in the tone and the writing between it and this film.  Between the over-dramatic villains, the self-consciously cheesy dialogue, and the nonchalant way the protagonists react to the supernatural, I kept waiting for Sarah Michelle Gellar to pop up with a stake only to remember that nobody wants to see her in movies anymore.  All in all, Like Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Doctor Who or any other slightly cheesy quirk-fest, I can completely understand all of the problems somebody could find with this movie.  They just simply don’t bother me.

As a final note, I only saw this in 3D because I didn’t have to pay for it, but as someone who absolutely hates the format the fact that I didn’t really mind it here could supposedly be viewed as an endorsement to shell out a few extra bucks if it sounds like that would appeal to you.

The Verdict:  7.0/10  Good

+ A very Whedon-esque sense of silly fun

+ Great chemistry between Renner and Arteron

+ Some pretty impressive effects and fighting sequences for a relatively low budget

- Cheesy dialogue, relatively predictable plot and more might turn a lot of people off

Critical Consensus:

Rotten Tomatoes: 14%

IMDb: 6.4/10

Metacritic: 21/100

Other Reviews:

Tim’s Film Reviews: 83%

i’m a movie nerd: [Nothing special, but very entertaining]

The Devil’s Advocates: 3.5/5

Fogs’ Movie Reviews: B

The Focused Filmographer: 3/5

Dan the Man Movie Reviews: 5/10

Movie Writing: 1/10

Average: 5.8/10 – Passable

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About r361n4

I'm a student at the University of Washington Majoring Business. I've always loved movies and my goal is to work on the financial side of the film industry. Until then though, I figure I'll spare my friends from my opinions and shout them from a digital mountaintop for anyone who's interested. After all, if a tree falls in a forest and nobody blogs about it, does it really happen?
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22 Responses to Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Review: Whedonites Assemble!

  1. Mark Hobin says:

    I had kind of written this off, but perhaps I misjudged it. 7.5 is a really high rating. Nice review!

  2. myreelpov says:

    I wasn’t going to watch this but I am huge Buffy fan so maybe I will give it a go! Really funny, well written review.

  3. Based on what you have said I am sure I will love it, have you seen how bad the first lot of reviews have been?

  4. I just got back from seeing this. They pushed the release date back so much I was worried but I had a really fun time. I don’t know why there’s so much hate for this one, it seems unfair. It’s not great, but it’s not terrible.

    I loved your description of it as an “extended, R-Rated version of a Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode.” That’s spot on.

    Great review!

  5. mettelray says:

    I also like Renner, especially after I saw him do some lunges in MI 4 with those tight pants, sounds shallow, well I don’t care, cause Renner’s butt is awesome. How about his butt in this? Just kidding, no really, I’m looking forward to see it. I like kind of fantasy and that stuff, plus it doesn’t have Stewart and that makes every movie a bit better to begin with.

    • r361n4 says:

      Lol, nice. As I said, I’m a huge fan of Gemma Arterton’s butt so no judgement is being passed. I wasn’t paying a huge amount of attention to Jeremy’s posterior this time around, but everything else surrounding his but is at least entertaining enough to make a trip to the theater worth it

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  7. wordschat says:

    I’ll see it sometime during its run here. How did the 3D measure up? Did it add much for the extra bucks?

    • r361n4 says:

      Honestly, I would just do 2D because I still don’t think the 3D adds enough to justify the added ticket price. Plus, the less you spend on it the more pressure you have to enjoy the film, and pressure is never good

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  9. Laughed so much at this line: “As a side note, I’ll admit (with the full knowledge that my girlfriend will probably read this) that Gemma Arteron’s skin-tight leather pants are nearly enough reason to recommend this movie on their own.”

    Gemma looked great indeed.

    Glad you liked this one and also glad you mentioned Famke’s “redemption” of sorts after Taken 2. I liked the 3D effects in this one actually and would recommend seeing it that way.

    Thanks for the shoutout/link to my review. Appreciate that.

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