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.
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 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.
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.
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.
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
Rotten Tomatoes: 14%
Tim’s Film Reviews: 83%
i’m a movie nerd: [Nothing special, but very entertaining]
The Devil’s Advocates: 3.5/5
Movie Writing: 1/10
Average: 5.8/10 – Passable