Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D (2012)
Directed by: Tommy Wirkola
Written by: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Famke Janssen, Gemma Arterton, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Jeremy Renner, Joanna Kulig, Peter Stormare, Pihla Viitala
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D (2013)
(15) Running time: 88 minutes
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Writer: Tommy Wirkola
Cast: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare, Pihla Viitala, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Joanna Kulig
Reviewed by: Matt Wavish
I have been reading some terrible reviews of Tommy Wirkola’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, and to be hones I don’t get it. I sat through this film today and the short 90 minute running time absolutely flew by with very little filler, and I pretty much enjoyed every minute. Granted the film is not going to make any Best Of lists come the end of the year, but as a simple action/ comedy/ horror/ fantasy/ adventure, it rarely misses the mark. Wirkola has seriously upped his game after the tremendous horror flick, Dead Snow, and here is proof that if you throw money at the right kind of director, then they will make something quite brilliant for you.
Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is a big budget flick with lots of spectacular special effects and tons of action set pieces. Wirkola appears very much in control, and the step up from straight to DVD horror to a bigger budget film aimed at a wider audience, does not seem to have phased him at all. The film chugs along at breakneck pace, the action is shot well, the actors all do their jobs just right and for the most part the film is so much fun you can easily forgive any problems the film has.
The story of Hansel & Gretel is told through the film’s opening, and we learn of how the Brother and Sister were taken into the woods by their Father after their Mother says it is not safe for them at home. The parents never return, so the siblings explore the woods, eventually finding a house made out of candy. Naturally they begin eating the sweets and the doors open and they head inside, only to be taken prisoner by a witch. They break free, kill the witch and grow up to become famous Witch Hunters known everywhere. The story of Hansel and Gretel’s growing reputation is told during the opening credits which are a real joy to watch. Animated and making full use of the films 3D, the opening credits are quite brilliant. Eventually we get back to the film, and we head to a small village in the woods, and children are going missing, reportedly taken by witches who live in the woods. The local sheriff (a wonderfully nasty Peter Stormare) is accusing a young woman of being a witch when in steps Hansel & Gretel to save the girl, and introduce themselves to the village. They have been hired by the Mayor to find the real witches responsible for taking the children, and so begins a non-stop action romp of hunting witches.
The film is very playful, and never takes itself too seriously. The banter between Hansel, Gretel and all the rest of the cast is a lot of fun, and it is very hard to dislike any of the characters here. Famke Janssen and her gang of witches and a rather large troll also make great enemies, and Janssen is clearly having a lot of fun playing the head witch. Jeremy Renner and the gorgeous Gemma Arterton bounce off each other with bags of natural charm and wit, and the rest of the characters fall seamlessly into place around them. Granted some of the script is a tad cheesy, and at times you can sense Wirkola struggled to stretch the dialogue, but if you just take the film on face value, you can see past this and simply enjoy the ride. The action is well directed, although some of the close up fighting becomes hard to see with the added 3D aspect. To sound like one of our fellow reviewers, the film needed less close-ups, and would have benefitted from the camera panning back a little. The frantic filming can at times be a little nauseating, but it is very well put together and might look tighter on a smaller TV screen at home.
There is plenty of violence, blood and guts with heads being chopped off, witches shredded by wires attached to trees, heads blown off and all sorts of cool (although completely out of place) gadgets are used. The music is loud, rousing and really keeps up the momentum of this easy to watch action/ horror romp, and the name of the game here seems to be having fun. The plot doesn’t really serve much purpose: the main storyline becomes a race against time to stop Muriel (Janssen) gathering witches from all over the world congregating to watch her create the ultimate weapon, a cure for being burnt by fire. All this story does is give reason for the fun, and in this current age of deadly serious films which you have to really concentrate on, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is a breath of fresh air. The 3D is ultra cool as well: objects fly out of the screen, and the format is used here as nature intended, as a gimmick!
The main problem is that there is never really any sense of danger, and apart from Hansel and Gretel, you will care very little about the rest of the characters. Things happen far too easily and plans come together too perfectly. A trap set in the woods for witches somehow works as the witches fly on broomsticks in EXACTLY the right direction, Hansel and Gretel manage to both head to the same abandoned house in the middle of acres and acres of woods after losing each other. Silly things like this could have done with a little more effort just to give the film some added ‘damsels in distress’ type of menace.
However, there is very little to hate about a film which so rightly has its tongue firmly in its cheek. There is too much fun and excitement going on here to start nitpicking at pointless, silly little complaints. The film was never intended to be serious (I presume!) and it is all about switching off for 90 minutes and enjoying the ride. Wirkola, job well done and on the basic of this, Dead Snow 2 is gonna be very impressive!