What’s “in” now at the movies? 3D is still in. Sequels, remakes and re-boots remain in. Lately, turning fairy tales into live actions movies are the latest craze. “Snow White and the Huntsman” was a big hit. “Jack the Giant Slayer” which is based on the fairy tale, Jack and the Beanstalk is coming soon, but right now we have “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters”. If these other movies are as bad as this one, this turning fairy tales into live action movies trend will not last long.
Most of us know the story of Hansel and Gretel. Two children become lost in the woods and they come across a house made of candy. They get captured by the witch who lives in that house. She intends to cook the children, but the kids push the old witch into the oven and kill her. So what happens to our two young heroes after that? According to “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have made a career of hunting down and killing witches. A small town has hired them because many of the town’s children have been kidnapped. Little do they know that the witch Muriel (Famke Janssen) has an insidious plot involving the next Blood Moon.
“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” can best be described as part action movie, part fantasy and part horror. Sadly, it never truly excels in any of those genres. There are many action scenes throughout the entire movie and not one of them is terribly interesting. Hansel and Gretel have specialized weapons like a machine gun cross bow and a hand held stun gun that needs to be cranked first, but no matter what is happening in a scene, writer/director Tommy Wirkola is never able to draw the audience into the action. Don’t expect to be on the edge of your seat at any point during this movie.
Tommy Wirkola is a Norwegian filmmaker and I am not familiar with any of his previous work. “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” is his first big studio picture. Perhaps his others films are horror movies with gory effects because there is plenty of gore here. Usually studios prefer these types of movie to carry a PG-13 rating to help attract a wider audience since children under 17 can’t see an R rated movie without a parent which is the rating this movie has earned. Besides the amount of blood there is also nudity and a good amount of cursing too. Perhaps Wirkola thought that if you put enough blood, guts, cursing and nudity into fairytale that the shock value of it would appeal to an American audience. Someone needs to inform him that the movie still needs to be good.
The only real positive notes to come out of “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” is the 3D effects and Famke Janssen. The 3D camera package used by cinematographer Michael Bonvillain must have been one of the best out there. Tommy Wirkola should get credit for planning out this movie to take the utmost advantage of the technology. Besides making great use of placing things in the background and foreground there is also plenty of fun “coming at ya” shots in the movie that work well. While the 3D is excellent, nothing is added by seeing it on an IMAX screen.
Famke Janssen obviously had a lot of fun playing the villain in this movie, even under all that makeup. She stops short of playing the role over the top so it does not come across as too corny. Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, our two leads, are a different story. As seen in this past summer’s “The Borne Legacy”, Renner still does not seem ready to be in the spotlight. He’s been great in supporting roles (“Marvel’s the Avengers”, “Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol”), but so far he lacks that movie star quality that would allow him to take the lead. Gemma Arterton falls completely flat in her portrayal of Gretel. She is yet to make an impression in anything I’ve seen her in. She needs to develop better tools outside of her attractive looks and her accent.
“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” will easily be the #1 movie at the box office this weekend. A younger crowd could really enjoy it. FAU student, Justin Stempel, who attended an advanced screening of the movie in West Palm Beach said, “I thought it was an interesting twist,” when asked how he liked the movie. A better twist would have been an enjoyable time at the movies.