For cinematic gurus who see, and sometimes suffer, through as many flicks as yours truly does, just listing off a few comparisons would succinctly tell one what they’re getting into with the R-rated Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters tale. And that’s what we shall do:
Take some of the meta-like nature found in 2011’s Your Highness, mix it with the seriousness of 1988’s Willow, add in the screenplay delivery of John Carpenter’s Vampires, and it all brews to this splendid piece of gritty fantastical entertainment.
Seriously, this product is actually crafted with intelligence.
Intelligence is mentioned because this is not trying to constantly mock itself and/or persuade you to buy into the seriousness of the situation. It’s simply about the famed fairy tale characters, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) & Gretel (Gemma Arterton), who are all grown up and have become witch bounty hunters. The two siblings stroll through medieval towns with Van Helsing-esque weaponry, collecting a paycheck for vanquishing the local witch and finding the kidnapped children. That’s it.
Of course, they meet their match when a grand witch (Famke Janssen) looks to fulfill some prophecy and pushes the celebrity-like duo to the limits, as they chase her through dark forests and defend the rundown village from her blood-thirsty sisters.
The demeanor of the characters, along with a clean script that practices continuity and goes out of its way to avoid plot holes, is what separates this from horrid off-shoot fairy tale adaptations such as Red Riding Hood. Yeah there’s sarcasm being spread around, but it’s in a Bruce Willis/Die Hard sort of way. In other words, while there are fun moments, there’s still a substantial task at hand, and you’re interested to see how it all turns out. And as an added bonus (a.k.a. something Twilight wouldn’t do) blood is splattered all over the place when a witch and/or townsperson bite it (decent body count).
While the set designs are fairly standard for this time period, the CGI and make-up on the witches has some conviction rather than looking too innocent. Some witches are very Resident Evil creature-like. This errs more on the side of graphic fantasy horror than most of the PG-13 schlock that plagued theater screens the last few years. Plus, it’s an engaging little adventure even though the story primarily unfolds in the handful of areas mentioned above. But you do get to tour the “Candy house.”
The only real knock is the cinematography during the ample amount of fight sequences. Whether it was hand-to-hand battles and/or wand to crossbow; the zoomed in camera made some sequences tough to follow; especially since this in IMAX 3D. Pulling back the camera would have been a nice touch.
Overall, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters has a coherent thought for the genre it’s flying in. By not pussyfooting around in trying to appeal to all audiences, the filmmakers created a respectable easy-going film that will give one hope for future alternate stories based off fairy tales; which if you really read between the lines, are mostly diabolical anyway.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters opens in the Tampa Bay market on Friday.