Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Starring Not Jason Bourne and Tess of the d'Urbervilles
Did you like The Brothers Grimm?
If so, you might want to save yourself $9 and go watch it again.1
In some ways it's refreshing how low Hansel & Gretel sets the bar. The origin is dispensed of pretty quickly — they killed a witch as kids, discovered they liked it, and turned it into a career. Now they've been hired by another village to hunt down the witches that have been kidnapping their children. Cue fight scene after fight scene where Hansel and Gretel kill witches in increasingly inventive ways with clever little toys. Roll credits, go home entertained.
After a while though, the lack of structure really starts to undermine the movie. The protagonists and antagonists don't have much in the way of background or motivation, and when the script tries to build an epic on such shaky foundations it can't stand. The fight scenes are linked by only the most tenuous threads of plot, and many of the revelations that spur the plot forward seem to be awfully convenient coincidences.2 Heck, in a few cases characters seem to acquire knowledge they couldn't possibly have, just because it was revealed to a different character in a previous scene.
It doesn't help that none of the principals seems excited to be here. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton seem like they're bored and just waiting to get a paycheck. Famke Janssen somehow channels her inner Shatner by inserting a pregnant pause after every other word. Fortunately the supporting players actually seem to be throwing themselves into their roles with hammy relish.
Still, there are plenty of things to like. The production design is incredible, with some gorgeous sets and costumes and some nifty witch makeup. There's a sily joke at the beginning with missing kid posters tied onto milk bottles that had me laughing out loud. There's a giant fight scene against the Racist Witch Caricatures of All Nations that is pretty darn neat.3 There are some nifty witch-killing gadgets.4
There's also has Gemma Arterton running around in a peasant blouse, corset, and tight leather pants. If you're into that sort of thing.
If you're in the mood for a dumb action movie you could do worse than Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. But it's still not worth full price. See a matinee, or Redbox it.
- Seriously, go watch it now. It's directed by Terry Gilliam and stars Matt Damon and Heath Ledger. What's not to like?
- And they don't have to be! One of the plot points is that the evil witch (Famke Janssen) needs Gretel's blood to complete her ritual. So all you had to do was imply that she's manipulated this crisis to draw our heroes to Augsburg and capture them. But nope, they don't even do that, so it all turns out to be a massive coincidence.
- I definitely spotted African Witch, Chinese Witch, Egyptian Witch, Eskimo Witch, Laplander Witch, and, um, Gothic Lolita Siamese Twin Witch. Okay, maybe I'm stretching this one a bit.
- Almost too many cool gadgets, actually. Instead of having a zillion special purpose gadgets it would have been neater to see them use some general purpose gadgets in clever and unexpected ways.