Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) by Tommy Wirkola
I guess I’m still not done with my obsession with fairy tales and folklore. It so happens that this is part of my own folklore and I guess I never appreciated the Brothers Grimm as part of German culture as I do these days. Sure, I was always aware of them – as their fairy tales accompanied my whole childhood, more so than Hans Christian Anderson’s – but never quite as appreciative as I am now. Maybe it took for me to see that Hollywood knows and likes them, too, maybe I am just now starting to look through these tales and see how really disturbing and influential they are.
Hansel & Gretel surely is one of the best known fairy tales, at least, for me it is. The gingerbread house, the bond between sibling, the evil witch that is being tricked by two children. The movie shows this story but it focuses more on the aftermath of two children killing a witch.
Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are abandoned by their father in the dark forest. After some time wandering they find a gingerbread house and start eating away at it. The witch living there lures them inside, incarcerates them and is ultimately killed before she can eat them. The siblings set out on a mission to free other children being held captive by witches and kill the evil hags. They build a reputation until – years later – they come to a town that has several children missing and no idea how to deal with this. Hansel and Gretel help out – for a price – but encounter their strongest opponent (Famke Janssen) yet, one that also links back to their past.
Sometimes you start watching a movie and you realize in the first few minutes that the plot is going to suck – big time. Such a movie is Hansel & Gretel. However, if you realize this early on you’re not building any expectations and that’s actually good because then you can enjoy it as a dense action flick with a lot of 3D-effects thrown in for good measure. Well, they’re not actually measured, they’re rather spread liberally.
If nothing else this movie is nice to look at. We have two good-looking main characters, we have the usual banter with people of lesser charm and ability, and then there’s Famke Janssen as the evil witch and she is sooo good at it. Make no mistake: the movie is bad. It’s shallow, it’s predictable, it’s superficial entertainment. But at least, it does not bore us with any deep contemplation, and it doesn’t annoy us with the assumption that Gretel is any less of a hero than her brother is. Gemma Arterton is not only a pretty sidekick to her ass-kicking brother, she kicks ass herself. And this is actually so rare it’s delightful. And on top of that, she looks good in leather. Jeremy Renner didn’t impress me half as much, though. I usually like him but he seems to play a lot of the same roles lately – Bourne, Hawkeye, Hansel: tough as nails action heroes that blow up shit but have nothing new to tell us.
Neither does this movie tell us anything new about old tales. But if you’re looking for an action flick where you can just see some disgusting, some ass-kicking, some sibling-bonding – you’re welcome to enjoy Hansel & Gretel.