Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013): A Big Dumb at Times Hilariously Stupid Action Movie


Hansel and Gretel

This film had the chance to be so bad it is good, it was so close to getting there…but in the end fell flat for quite a few reasons. I am surprised to say I can list some pros for this film though. I chose to do this film because a friend requested it when I was asking for ideas for bad films to review.

This is part of the gritty and extremifying of Fairy Tales that we’ve seen with “Jack the Giant Killer,” “Red Riding Hood,” and a few others. It really arose around the late 2010ish onward period and I think is largely motivated by a quick profit and taking the easy path of lazy adaptation…which I hope they stop doing. This film is written and directed by Tommy Wirkola which is a red flag in and of itself. Writing and directing a film on your own is usually a bad sign for quality since there is no real feedback or critique that would change your final product.

The story is the title. Hansel and Gretel of the Brothers Grimm fairy tales have grown up after killing the witch in the candy house and now hunt witches as bounty hunters for a living. Their quest for profit and killing witches brings them back to the village they were born in and the story unfolds from there around the plot of a coven of witches.

Here is the assessment of the film:

Pros: Gretel – Gretel is the best part of the film, and I hope to see Gemma Arterton in more films. She is compelling and the first to recognize there mother was a White Witch and good witch and therefore not all witches are evil. She gets captured near the end but holds her own against the leader of the coven, as well as befriending Edward…the witches slave and turning him against them and the Hansel and Gretel fanboy Ben joins them because of her kindness towards him.

Hansel – Jeremy Renner is good in this, even though at times he looks bored. He is the guy with all the one liners and the one who is cold to everybody. He falls in love with Mina who his sister saves who was blamed for witchcraft who is a good witch and uses Ben and her to save the day in taking out the coven. His character arc is simple and predictable, but Renner isn’t bad.

Edward – The stupid muscle is actually a good guy. He saves Gretel from the evil sheriff who had targeted Mina in a wonderfully graphic fashion (crushing heads and limbs) and joins their team at the end after Gretel saves his life.

From here on out there are only cons…

Cons: The Music – Who chose this music? Rock music doesn’t have to be bad in movies like this, but it is terrible music that doesn’t add to the story in any way. So often it just turned scenes that were supposed to be action into comedy.

The Villains: The Evil Sheriff – The evil sheriff is the cliche bully who is bad for the sake of being bad. He is a sexist nutjob who has no backstory and only exists to threaten the good people of Mina, The Mayor, Hansel and Gretel.

The Witch Coven – The designs are boring and clearly being ripped off vampires in “Buffy,” but with more veins. The witches are like creature types (horned witch, swamp witch, water witch, black witch, white witch…Got to Catch ’em All!) and the leader has no motivation…she’s angry that Hansel and Gretel’s mother married a human and had children so she turns the town on their mother? What…by doing so she played her hand that witches exist which put her at risk. God she was stupid…just like this film.

Big Dumb Action – The action here takes the “Van Helsing” approach of modern weapons in a medieval setting and going steampunk. The difference is that this time there isn’t anything unique about how the action scenes are filmed. We get wide shots and witches being shot down from a distance. The only good action scene is Edward taking out the sheriff and his thugs. The rest is truly forgettable and stupid.

The Story – There are more cliches in this than can be counted…and that aren’t handled well. They are really predictable. From Mina being a good witch and bringing Hansel around to liking witches…and Hansel and Gretel being children of a witch and Gretel’s heart being needed to strengthen the witches…from the fanboy becoming the hero and the muscle of the baddies turning good. Edward was the only one of those that felt unique. The rest were so cliche I saw them coming from the introduction of the characters. The witches never felt like a threat either…no one of importance died and the revenge plot in this setting is contrived and over done. God, this story was terrible.

The re-imagining – This is part of a bad Hollywood movie model that I hope it ends. I don’t think it will though since this movie is getting a sequel…so who knows…we may see a new Cinderella where she is an assassin killing with glass slippers and the step-mother is really the Queen and the ruler of an oppressive regime…this probably will happen at some point. What hasn’t been made dark and gritty is open since the people have spoken…and there is clearly a market…crap…

This film was almost so bad it was good because at times it had self awareness. When you are doing something like this, that is good. The premise is hilarious but the thing is it was played way too seriously but still tried to be comedic…it had to go one or the other fully to make it truly so bad it is good. This film just ended up being bad. Now that a sequel is in the works though…maybe he will commit to fully serious or fully comedic and create a true work of art out of a laughable premise? We will see. For now, if you want to see a film that captures a lot of what is wrong with Hollywood, watch this film.

My final score for this film is 3 / 10. Because Hansel, Gretel and Edward were at least interesting as characters.

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