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Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters – film review

February 6, 2013


Not nearly as much fun as it could be.

Reviewed on Monday 4th February 2013

hansel and gretel witch hunters - janssen

Written and directed by Tommy Wirkola. Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala and Thomas Mann. Running time: 88 mins.

There is a term used in Hollywood to describe movies like Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters. And that term is ‘high-concept’. High-concept refers to an idea for a movie (usually containing one or more fantasy elements) which can be summed up in a single sentence and therefore easily marketed – ie: Nazis on the moon (Iron Sky)     or snakes on a plane or even a Conneticut yankee in King Arthur’s court. And so     too Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters could be classed as high-concept. More entertaining than Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (although not by much) – Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters continues the current trend of historical/literary figures engaged in vigilante face-offs against belligerent supernatural beasties.

A coven of nasty witches (led by Famke Janssen) kidnaps children in order to sacrifice them during the approaching lunar eclipse – for reasons which are never clearly explained. It is up to famed witch hunters Hansel and Gretel (now all grown   up) to locate the children, take out the witches and save the townspeople from …   well … something.

Apparently Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola first pitched the idea of Hansel to his lecturer while still a film student in Australia – his lecturer enthusiastically telling him to keep quiet with the idea until such time as he had the opportunity to pitch it to Hollywood executives. Presumably such discretion was warranted to keep others from using it themselves – as ideas cannot be protected under copyright law – and Grimm’s fairytales have long been in the public domain. Wise advice indeed, but it’s just such a shame Wirkola did nothing all that interesting with the concept.

hansel and gretel witch hunters

Of the film’s international cast, only Gemma Arterton seems to be enjoying herself – revelling in the kick-ass action scenes. Indeed, from the bemused glint in her eye, she appears to be the only cast member who understands the inherent silliness of it all – whereas everyone else plays it oh so straight – particularly Jeremy Renner who looks like he’d rather be back in Baghdad defusing roadside bombs.

Aside from some depth during the graphics in the opening title sequence, the 3D is pretty much ineffective, so I wouldn’t be too concerned about seeing it flat if it’s your only option. Actually, if I had a choice, I would have preferred to see it without the 3D, as this is one of those instances where much of the film was shot flat anyway. And, as 3D conversions tend to be notoriously awful – everything is a lot more murky than normal.

If incomprehensible action scenes, Matrix-style fisty-cuffs and an overabundance of CGI blood-letting is your idea of a good time, then Hansel can be mindless fun for the undemanding. On the other hand, those expecting a clever spin on Grimm will be left somewhat underwhelmed. It really is a missed opportunity (much like last year’s Iron Sky) – that such an original idea is left half-baked and underexplored. It’s not like the film is badly made, just tediously conventional – with no real point of difference and no real surprises. What is missing is a boldness of attitude – a willingness to fly in the face of conformity. Instead what we have here is yet more of the same banality we’ve come to expect from Hollywood genre fare of late.

Hmmm. Perhaps I should dust off my pitch for Rumpelstiltzkin: Zombie Slayer.

2 stars out of 5

Star ratings: 1 – poor / 2 – below average / 3 – good / 4  – excellent / 5 – unmissable

Viewed in 3D at the Palace-Nova East End Cinemas, Adelaide, February 4th 2013.

Greg Moss is a film school graduate with a background in directing music videos   and is currently seeking representation as a screenwriter. He likes creative people, feeding the cat and watching genre movies.

From → film reviews

  1. Xenolicker permalink

    At least it’s R-rated… most contemporary movies are for kids, right?


    • gregory moss permalink

      Yeah, but that’s no justification – it’s still not very good.


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