Rather than holding back an “adult” fairy tale to make it accessible to younger audiences, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters doubles down on violence, gore and over-the-top action. It takes a Brothers Grimm fairy tale, which was already plenty dark, and cranks the darkness up to 11.
The film stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the grown-up Hansel and Gretel. After killing the witch in the famous fairy tale, the siblings become full-time witch hunters who are brought in to investigate a string of kidnappings in a small village.
This film is unapologetically violent and gory, and takes full advantage of the 3D illusion to show splatters, splinters and everything in between. The action scenes are fast-paced and exciting, and have some some fairly creative visuals thrown into the mix.
It feels like your typical popcorn movie, where you just turn off your brain, enjoy the ride and try to ignore the “schlocky” bits.
To add to the schlock, there are throwaway characters to beef up the kill count and some visually interesting but fairly pointless monsters. The final battle comes across as a drawn out letdown that tries to throw in a few final dramatic pitches which are thrown out the window within a few seconds.
The story isn’t as bad as it could have been, but it’s not without its fair share of flaws.
On the upside, it’s got a nice blend of action, humor and drama that keeps you engaged, with some nice expositional bits that add to the anachronistic nature of the story. On the downside, it falls into common action film clichés with plot points that feel tacked on and a little too “deus ex machina” for my tastes.
The acting doesn’t offer much to write home about. For the most part, we get pretty decent performances, but in the case of Arterton, some scenes have her acting like the tough femme fatale the trailers would have us believe, but other scenes feel as if the writer forgot what kind of character they were trying to create.
I understand giving a character some vulnerable moments, but we end up with a mild case of “dummy in distress.” In Renner’s case, it was basically a diabetic* Hawkeye killing witches.
For what it’s worth, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is still a blast if you’re looking for a film that doesn’t require a lot of thinking. It has that nice over-the-top, almost Tarantino-eqsue atmosphere that triggers your suspension of disbelief from the get-go.
There are some iffy elements with the story, so it’s best viewed at the dollar theaters or simply in 2D, with the kids left safely at home.
*Note for the reader: the diabetes is actually part of the story of the film, so calm down.