Imagine Hansel and Gretel from Grimm’s fairytales, only they’re not children anymore but adults! Adults with kickass weapons. No, wait, hot movie stars with kick-ass computer generated weaponry. Now picture them with streets smarts, attitude and (pretty average) one-liners. The apparent audience for this movie is television’s Supernatural. The setting is Europeanesque, the time is the Middle Ages, the technology is steam punk. Hansel and Gretel hate witches. They were nearly killed by one, see, when they were infants. Traumatised by this experience they have but one mission–kill all witches. They go from town to town offering their services as witch hunters. They execute their missions with superior training, weapons and a plethora of visual effects.
There is a tsunami of fairy-tale themed projects that is currently flooding our screens. There are in fact four Hansel and Gretel projects dated 2013 on the International Movie Database, including one where the witch lures teens with her own “special blend of marijuana”. Fortunately, the WITCH HUNTER version of Hansel and Gretel has a more traditional witch in a candy cottage. AccessReel doesn’t have to take drugs to have a good time, kids.
We are in an an era when the fashion is to take an established story and reset it with a contemporary ideology, sometimes rather at odds with its original ideas or sex it up with guns. Like MIRROR MIRROR (2012) which proposed a marginally feminist Snow White who learnt fighting moves or even ABRAHAM LINCOLN VAMPIRE HUNTER (2012), these movies are conceived by cross-pollinating one genre with another to come up with a third “out there” idea that is, in fact, reductive and predictable. Because sometimes one good thing added to another good thing, creates a third thing that is less than the sum of its parts.
The movie is the first English-speaking feature for Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola. His best-known film previously is DEAD SNOW (2009) a horror-comedy about a group of young students fighting off an attack of Nazi zombies. HANSEL AND GRETEL is a clear step up the professional ladder for Wirkola. The film was shot in Germany and has actors from there, Finland, Norway, Sweden, Poland as well as the United States and UK.
Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton do the best they can as Hansel and Gretel, but they are largely left to spin their wheels by the thin premise. Famke Janssen is apparently having fun as Head Witch, Muriel, yet seems underused. Bjørn Sundquist who was also in DEAD SNOW, has a larger supporting role than one might expect. It seems to be a hat-tip to the veteran Norwegian actor. One of the best things in the movie is a troll called Edward. He’s a marvel of prosthetic make up and animatronics. The movie lacks notable action sequences or insightful or even comedic character moments. The ending hints at a sequel which shows no lack of confidence on the part of Mr Wirkola and the movie’s producers.
If you have a desire for a movie with archery, decapitation, dismemberment, exploding bodies and lashings of gore, then this put this on your “must-see” list. HANSEL AND GRETEL is a fast moving, trifling of an action film that won’t trouble your mind with plot or character. It runs for a speedy 88 minutes. I rated it 5/10
NOTE: You can also check out our interview with the film’s producer Kevin Messick here.