Film Torments: Hansel & Gretel – Witch Hunters (2013)

PICTURE the scene. You’re at a meeting at MTV Films meeting (I know, right?) and the boss man says: “Okay, guys, we need a film where we can squeeze Gemma Arterton into a reasonably tight corset. Discuss.” This is how I assume the premise for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters came about. Much like last week’s I, Frankenstein, this movie is based on an already well-known story, before getting blown up to Blockbuster status and being inevitably panned by critics. Before I crack on with the aforementioned panning, there are a couple of things I’d like to say.

MTV Films reaching for the horny teenage boy audience...

MTV Films reaching for the horny teenage boy audience…

  1. Firstly this film’s visual effects are fantastic. Much like that of, say, Transformers or Iron Man 3, it’s hard to fault the work put in by the costume and effects teams. The very look of the witches impressed me only a mere 5 minutes into the film.
  2. There is a tiny part of me that feels this film doesn’t quite merit the title of ‘torment’. It’s certainly not as bad as any of the other films I’ve had the displeasure of viewing. However, as you read on you’ll begin to see why I went ahead with the decision.

So, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. Where do I begin? A lot of commentators have been divided on the tone of the film. Some say the film takes itself too seriously, while others say it doesn’t care, and takes a ‘fun’ approach. I myself was left torn between what this film was trying to achieve. By no means as slapstick as Your Highness, it also doesn’t reach the dead-pan seriousness of, say, Van Helsing. It’s a film stuck on some sort of middle ground, but with producers Adam McKay and Will Ferrell, you would have thought this would have more of a comedic side?

"Ya shit, Jezza!"

“Ya shit, Jezza!”

Alas, no. The film tries to be funny. There are lines you know are meant to be funny, but instead you’re left squirming awkwardly as they just don’t work. It doesn’t help that neither Jeremy Renner nor Gemma Arterton are particularly known for their comedic work, and their delivery feels out of place and odd. The scenes of dark humour just don’t work as well. It feels too forced and crude, as opposed to fluid and relevant. Had you scrapped the humour altogether and given it a more sophisticated and Gothic tone, you could have made something good out of this. I will admit, however, a wry snort did escape me once or twice. On top of that, you’ve got the incredible amount of gore as well. Ferrell and McKay need a slap; there are too many genres damn it!

Then we get to the characters themselves. It’s built up at the start that Hansel and Gretel are super cool badass witch hunters who kill every arsehole in their way, but as the film kicks off, I got the feeling that they were actually a bit… well, a bit shit to be frank. Hell, they sustained enough damage taking out a small time witch, how were they meant to take out Famke Janssen? (the answer being an extremely long and tedious fight). Not to mention their rootin’ tootin’ American accents amongst a swamp of German and English ones. Again, I can’t tell if this is meant to be satirical, or dead serious. It’s very off-putting.

A wasted, wasted character.

A wasted, wasted character.

Not only that, but it pains me to say that Gretel falls into the Damsel in Distress category. I reeeeaaalllly hoped she wouldn’t, but she does. Of course Hansel has to go rescue her at the end. Of course she gets beaten up by the jealous sheriff. And finally, of course she gets beaten up by about every witch in this movie. As if it wasn’t bad enough Arterton was squeezed into leather boots and a tight corset, she’s also friggin’ useless. Talk about fitting a stereotype.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters has gotten off lightly in comparison to some of the other shite I’ve watched in my time. While not completely tortuous, it’s certainly not cinematic gold. Pop in this film after a few beers, or while cuddled up with your other half, and it’s quite easy to glance over the faults. Namely: the stereotypical female roles, the adequate to poor dialogue, the boring fight scenes and the glaring obviousness that the studio opted to release this film AFTER Jeremy Renner was the star in Avengers Assemble and Bourne Legacy.

This film had so much potential, but that was flushed down the proverbial witch’s lavatory. I have nothing more to say about this film. I will however leave you with this: next time you happen to be on Netflix, skip past this film and for the love of God watch Woody Allen’s Manhattan.


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