Film: “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”; Actors: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Thomas Mann, Derek Mears; Director-Screenwriter: Tommy Wirkola; Rating: *1/2
The posters of Norwegian writer-director Tommy Wirkola’s “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” state – “Classic Tale – New Twist”. The film is actually a mishmash of genres, period, with a unique plot executed in 3D.
True, the characters and the basic story line have been taken from the old Grimm’s Fairy Tales. The film starts with young Hansel and Gretel abandoned in the woods. They stumble across a house made of candy, and encounter a nasty witch who they escape by throwing in a fire – only to return home and find their parents missing. They grow up to be bloodthirsty and trigger happy witch hunters who save towns from anything that flies on a broom.
As the brother sister duo stalk their prey, they find allies – Meera, a ‘white witch’ for Hansel, and Edward, a troll who takes a fancy to Gretel. But basically, they have to rely on their own steam to triumph over their enemies. Their main opponent is the cunning vixen Muriel who morphs from glamorous to hideous when the mood strikes.
In general, the witches are a crude, skin-cracked lot, in various shapes and sizes and their assembly on the Blood Moon night seems like a Halloween party.
The plot, such as it is, unfolds with a few surprises like the mystery of the disappearance of the sibling’s parents and the ghastly outcome of the combat. But those just get in the way of the action and the inventive methods the pair employ as assassins.
The story itself is really simple, but it is Tommy’s take on it to make it a gory affair. Jeremy Renner, unlike his strong performance in the “Hurt Locker”, exhibits a little above average performance as Hansel here. Similarly, the performance from Bond girl, Gemma Arterton as Gretel is nothing, but a sugar coat for the movie. Famke Janssen as the powerful witch, Muriel, flying across the moon on primitive pitchforks, searching for the heart of a good witch, is entertaining. And yes, the comedy is forced and corny.
The cinematography by Michael Bonvillain and production design by Stephen Scott is worth a mention. For there is a little fun to be had in the climactic battle and its use of anachronisms, but the film is mostly a drab affair. Nothing about the film really works. It is strange, because the film’s central idea of taking an old fable and giving it a cool twist is a unique idea, but nothing about the film feels fresh or new. The movie feels like the recycled parts of other unsuccessful action fantasy blended with gore films.
On the whole, “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” is just an average film with nothing special in it.