I’m not going to pretend as if I was aroused by this film’s premise. I’m not going to act like I was nodding in agreement when news arrived that an action remake of The Brothers Grimm‘s Hansel & Gretel was coming to theatres. I will say, however, that the concept sounded so silly indeed that it produced what I prefer to call “the Battleship effect” – a movie that seems so dumb, it probably must be seen.
Amazingly, though, Hansel & Gretel – Witch Hunters manages to mostly stay away from the “So Bad It’s Good” territory and merely comes off as somewhat weird and uninteresting. Lots of this has to do with the fact that the film doesn’t go goofy enough to be entertainingly bad, almost as if – gasp! – we were meant to take the movie seriously.
I’m sure we all wonder what happened to Hansel and Gretel after their encounter with the hungry which in the cabin of sweets, right? Well, no, not really, but this movie explains that the siblings grew up to be Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arteron; both very tough, very fierce and very thirsty for witch-slaughter. That is how they spend their days: protecting the people of medieval villages from folklore creatures, using modern weaponry and other gadgets. Now, I normally don’t mind steampunk-type action, but it usually only works if the film itself is set in a cool steampunk world. Here, the gadgets used by the siblings come off as distractingly out-of-place in what is otherwise a seemingly normal medieval/Fantasy enviroment.
Anywho, the small town of Augsburg is threatened more than usual when an unusually powerful witch, played by Famke Janssen, arrives and starts to prepare for an acient ritual that will make witches live forever, or some such, and there may or may not be something within Gretel that makes her essential to the witches’ plans. There may also be a reason as to why she and Hansel were left alone in the woods on that night all those years ago; a totally different one than that which was already given in the original Grimm story, of course. Because fanfiction movies are the next big thing, and I guess we’ll just have to sit back and accept it.
As it the film got started, though, it looked as though it was maybe going to be the next Snow White and The Huntsman. A live-action adaptation of a fairy tale classic that does it well and makes changes that acutally work in the movie’s favor. I liked the prologue, the opening credits sequence and some early scenes with Peter Stormare as a brutal sheriff, but I dreaded the goofiness that was to come. I hoped, at least, that I would get something to laugh at but I didn’t really get much of that either.
Like I said, it almost seems (at certain times, anyway) that the makers of the movie genuinely expected the whole set-up to be taken seriously. It doesn’t play like a comedy, but rather a gory action film with the occasional comic relief parts and mildly funny one-liners. It is directed by Tommy Wirkola, who made the Norweigian Nazi-zombie film Død snø, which I haven’t seen yet but I’ve heard is supposed to be pretty funny, because a movie about Nazi-zombies should indeed be funny. The same ought to go for a movie about two German kids (American in the movie) who grow up to hunt witches with weapons even The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen would say no to.
I know all these anachronisms are deliberate and supposed to be ignored, but it is just too silly for me not to question. Maybe I would’ve been okay with them using modern-day but then there are scenes like the one where they lure a witch into captivity by playing the voice of a lost child on a gramophone, made out of wood and what looks like a piece of disc-shaped armor from the local blacksmith. It’s nice that Hansel and Gretel borrowed a device to use for their hunting and all that, but what’s Fred Flintstone supposed to play his favourite music on now?
Hansel & Gretel – Witch Hunters is too preposterous to take seriously, but not preposterous enough to find hilarious. The film has cool and good-looking bits in it for sure, but I’m sorry, but when a film produces this many unpleasant Van Helsing flashbacks, my thumb can only point one way. My suggestion is that you watch the prologue, walk out, ask for your money back and ask for tickets for the new Die Hard movie.