Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)
Classic Tale, New Twist
Yep, this seems like its something familiar, doesn't it? Taking an old fairy tale and twisting it into something more than what it was has been a bit of a trend in 2013 I'd say - what with movies and television both doing it. In this case, the spin happens to be an action movie very similar to Van Helsing straight down to the interesting gadgets and weaponry of the duo. Sure, the cover isn't unpleasant on the eyes, but can the movie prove itself magical or does it burn at the stake?
A lot of folks should be familiar with the old fairy tale of Hansel and Gretel: Two kids lose themselves in the woods and end up stumbling upon a house made of candy - where a witch promptly tries to eat the kids after they are all fattened up and delicious. Well, the movie starts something like that (less lost in the woods, less being eaten, and more taking down the witch using her own oven), but the movie proper has not much to do with the old tale outside of two siblings bearing the name Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton). Here, after getting taken in by a nearby village after their harrowing defeat and subsequent victory over the witch that tried to eat them, the two kids start finding they have a knack for beating on witches. We witness a montage of paper article clippings documenting their various success in the field of burning the wicked and saving the numerous stolen kiddies, and then the movie starts.
Now much older, the two find themselves hired by the mayor of a town, much to the disdain of the local sheriff, to go forth and save the incredibly high number of children being kidnapped by witches as of late. The siblings get off to a rocky start with the sheriff after disproving the "witch" he caught as actually being a witch and Gretel headbutting the man and breaking his nose doesn't help stay the animosity he feels towards them either. After an initial sortie out into the woods (and the relevant witch takedown), the siblings decide the witches stealing the kids must have something big planned, of which they shortly after learn they are quite right. Turns out witches are planning some sort of ritual to make them fireproof. Imagine that! Fireproof witches! How can the world rid themselves of such an indestructible force?
Well, we learn this before the siblings do (thanks to a scene of three witches conversing about it), and with a little trick they eventually manage to capture one of the three witches and learn some details (mainly that they need 12 kids - one born in each month of the year, half boys and half girls) that prompt some action, some plot twist reveals, and further the plot. Inject a slight romance between Hansel and the witch-accused woman from before, a bonding of friendship between Gretel and a troll, and a mega-fan who wants to help them and become a witch hunter as well (and has a major crush on Gretel), and you have the general gist of the rest of the movie. I won't lie, the plot works as far as action movies go, but Lord of the Rings this surely is not, and the more major plot twist reveals can mostly all be seen coming. Part of this for-seeable nature is that some of the hints given by the movie towards the major plot reveals are painfully heavy handed and could only be missed by a potato.
The action scenes do little to convey how good Hansel and Gretel are at their job, although they are enjoyable to watch - often with some form of chasing through the woods involved, with plenty of close skirmish and ranged shooting mixed in. When I say it doesn't convey how good they are at their job, it's because the two are constantly throughout this movie getting the crap kicked out of them by witches. I understand that they are powerful magical creatures who aren't supposed to be able to be taken down by just any forest-dwelling schmuck, but after the action scene ends you are simply amazed that either of the two siblings are still alive, let alone both of them. The weaponry and toys used are very much Van Helsing in nature - overly complex and fantasy based guns or super-fast repeating crossbows that would make some modern weapons envious. There's even a little taser device, complete with hand-pulled charging capacities.
That being said, a lot of the items in the movie look quite solid and for lack of better words real. From the witches to the guns and even the troll, they all look as though they are physically on the set at any given time of filming, and the only times it really feels as though someone desired to use a computer for anything was when violence crops up in the form of exploding bits, severed bits, or magical beams. It's a nice touch as it means it should (in theory) hold up to time much better as far as looking dated go, and it also means that the costume department gets to have a bit more fun while the actors can get more believable reactions and the like to things happening within the screen (instead of "pretending" something is right there, it actually is!). The good-guy siblings wear a very Underworld-era attire, meaning lots of black and some trenchcoat action. Most the townsfolk look more akin to period dress, but where it really gets to shine is at the end of the movie when the witches gather for a ritual, in which case you get to see a large variety of witches with individual and unique looks.
Actors do a good job here for the most part, although at times the characters themselves can come a bit into question. Hansels cold way of interacting with the woman they saved when coming into town, for example, seems as though it's rather uncalled for. Likewise, one would think the town's sheriff would be ecstatic to have professional witch hunters to help out, but instead seems to go out of his way to hamper them from doing their job. The biggest complaint one could really have is that the language is a bit unnecessary at most parts, and given the fantasy-style olden day setting, when someone drops a F-bomb it also seems out of place to begin with. For the vast majority though, although the lines themselves might leave something to be desired, the actors do a well enough job with what they have to work with. Theres also a few more crude moments and a single scene of nudity in there - which although doesn't feel entirely necessary (in that shallow romance tie in way that most action flicks do), does still have some pretty believable acting to it.
When it comes down to it, if you happen to have seen Van Helsing and enjoyed that this should be something you'll like as well. It isn't anything super fancy or necessarily a gem in the rough, but it was well enough enjoyed on my watch through that I would consider revisiting it again sometime later on. The gadgets are cool even if the users of those gadgets seem to have a hard time doing what they should be excellent at, and the costume design has some interesting takes on what a witch looks like. It tries to teach you some things about blanket accusations and casting all similar things into the same category, but it is highly recommend that you go into it with an action movie mentality to enjoy it the most in my opinion. Of course, if you're reading this in the first place that is kind of what you wanted anyways - my opinion, and my opinion is that I enjoyed this one.