I don't have to tell you Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is bad. You already know that. It was filmed back in March of 2011 and originally set to hit theaters a year later. It was then delayed almost a full year and it's January 2013 placement on the release schedule is reason enough as to why. However, a diamond is occasionally found in the rough and every film must be given a chance. Now, it's had its chance and the results weren't good.
"Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" is a Paramount Pictures release, directed by Tommy Wirkola and is rated R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language. The running time is .
The cast includes Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Derek Mears, Thomas Mann and Rainer Bock.
Star Jeremy Renner shot Hansel and Gretel before making The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy, and while the film's release date may be trying to now take advantage of the Oscar nominee's fanboy status, it doesn't take a forensic scientist to see through the smoke and mirrors.
Based on the Brothers Grimm fairy tale, Hansel and Gretel uses the short story of two orphans drawn to a cottage made of candy in the forest and subsequently imprisoned and force-fed candy by an evil witch, and turns their ability to overcome and burn said witch into a story of supernatural, sibling bounty hunters.
The narrative is far from unique as Hansel (Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are called to a small village where several children have already been abducted and, obviously, witches are the suspects. As is always the case, one evil witch (Famke Janssen) needs a brood of children so she can carry out her "grand, witch plan" that will make her and her friends immune to fire, a favorite weapon of our titular heroes against their nemeses.
Considering a witch can be killed a myriad of ways, a fact that is made known to us explicitly in the film, I'm not sure why they are so keen on getting just fire off the list, but more power to them. Maybe wear neck collars made of iron as well, or perhaps stop being a bunch of meanies. Either option is sure to help.
Of course, there is a larger mystery at the film's core, but if you aren't catching on to that within the first ten minutes then perhaps you'll find this film mildly enjoyable. As for me, to learn it was only 88 minutes long came as a shock as I would have bet it wasn't any shorter than 100, and the cheap faux-IMAX 3-D glasses didn't make the duration of the film any more enjoyable.
Given the option now, there's no chance Renner or Arterton agree to make this film. How relatively unknown writer/director Tommy Wirkola (Dead Snow) managed to score the duo in the first place is a mystery to me. Perhaps it's because he pitched the film as a comedy instead of a straight-forward genre feature, because a few doinks, bonks and car horns would have made a lot more sense over the all-too-serious nature of the film as is.
Not once do Hansel or Gretel question the fact these witches they're battling are essentially black belt martial artists, but it sure looks funny watching them throw a few elbows and high knees. Then there's the moment Hansel does a somersault and crashes through a door only to be immediately smacked in the face with a shovel. If there was ever a moment deserving a cartoonish BONK! this was it. Funnier still is the plot-line where Hansel is diabetic due to all the candy the witch fed him when he was younger, which leads to the moment he goes into shock in the middle of stringing a witch up. I've seen action sequences drag out before, but this was too much. Then again, had it been a comedy it would have worked a whole lot better.
I even got a laugh following the opening credits as the theme music sounded a lot like Hans Zimmer's score for the Sherlock Holmes movies only to read Zimmer served as executive music producer. Atli Örvarsson, however, is credited with the score. I presume Zimmer download a copy of the Sherlock to Örvarsson's iPod and said, "Do that," and called it good. In fact, I feel as if this entire movie was put together in the same way.
Hansel and Gretel could have been a gory, laugh riot, had some creative screenwriting taken place. However, a focus on aerial martial arts and heavy-duty medieval weaponry turns this into a shoddy Underworld knock-off, and I think detractors of the Underworld franchise would even call that comparison "high praise." (I actually enjoy the Underworld films I should note.)
From a plot that randomly casts our characters off to different locations just so they can stumble upon necessary clues to keep the story flowing, to action sequences that feel derivative of nearly every second rate action movie you've seen before, Hansel & Gretel would have been a direct-to-video release had it not been for the 3-D and the new-found Jeremy Renner name-recognition. Fortunately for both Renner and Arterton, it won't be around long enough to bruise their careers too much.