Hansel & Gretel, Witch Hunters (2013) Film Review
Dark, modernized spins on fairy tales is one of Hollywood’s newest obsessions. This re-tooling of an old children’s classic is the latest script to fall into the hands of filmmakers.
As children, young Hansel and Gretel were led into the woods by their father… and left there. That dark night alone they came upon a house made entirely of sweets and inside a terrifying witch who planned to bake the children into one of her concoctions. Turns out, the siblings fight back, and instead of being defeated, they turn the tables and escape her clutches. It’s this taste of witch blood stays with them into adulthood. They’ve now become Witch Hunters.
On this particular day, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are about to save a woman accused of practicing witchcraft. The townspeople are desperate to lay blame to anyone who seems mysterious given that several of their children are missing. At the bequest of the mayor, Hansel and Gretel begin to hunt the witch, Murial (Famke Janssen). This fight turns out to be harder than anyone expects, especially when they learn Gretel is actually a target. This puts Hansel on a quest to find his sister… the hunt is just beginning.
“Me and my sister… we have a past. We almost died at the hands of a witch. But that past made us stronger.” – Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
It’s been jarring to experience iconic fairy tales as “dark.” It wasn’t until the movie Brothers Grimm came out that I realized how dark these stories in their original form are. They aren’t the happy-go-lucky childhood fables from Disney, all wrapped in animated, musical packages. In addition to the loose biopic Grimm Brothers, I’ve also seen Red Riding Hood, so it’s no surprise that I’d be curious about this story. To be honest, I think I’d psyched myself up for the movie not meeting high expectations so it’s a happy coincidence to discover that this is, in fact a thrilling good time!
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So much about this film is in pieces given that it pulls from modern culture, but works to maintain a period concept. Somehow it works. An example of modern culture might be a face on a milk jug or fitting the titular characters as a kind of bounty hunter. All of this seems suitable, and is a clever solution for the script; a script that will be too explicit for some. There is comparison to the legend. But it takes things one step further by aging its protagonists. Iconic characters I think I can honestly say I’ve never liked so well as I do when Renner and Arterton play them. The two of them are great together; they’ve got a deeper chemistry as siblings than most actors play their characters and it’s refreshing to experience.
Renner already establishes himself as leading man material in various action pictures and again he proves he has good screen charisma. It’s also nice to see Gemma (Lost in Austen) in something again. In some sense this movie is a bit macabre with some “dark magic” elements and I have to confess that was part of its attraction.
The film never fully loses itself to the dark elements; evil is the sorceress who hunts the innocent which is counteracted by the good of the heroes missions. To help sell this, we learn that not all who have magic use it wickedly. What this does is throw in some lighthearted humor (in fact I would argue that Red Riding Hood is gloomier). Filmmakers also put together a fantastic full-on atmospheric film. From the creepy forest to the villages and “cool” weaponry, the movie sparkles not just by its characters, but also the settings. Another incentive is that the story contains itself to a mere 80-some minutes which is nice since it never seems to suffer from pacing issues. The final scene does tease the possibility of a sequel however I’m won’t hold my breath.
Ultimately, Hansel & Gretel is decent and I’ll be apt to rewatch. It’s fun, exciting and sometimes a little bit creepy – none of which detracted from the film, only added to it. Sadly, it’s too full of content to recommend, however had it toned that down, this steampunk-esque piece of film work could have been superior. This is one personification of Hansel and Gretel I wouldn’t want to mess with – or meet in a dark forest!
This post does contain affiliate links, which means – at no extra cost to you, I may receive a small commission if you make a purchase through a link. See the disclosure page for details.) You can rent or own Hansel & Gretel on Amazon Video or on DVD.
CONTENT: Hansel & Gretel is rated R because of its fantasy violence and profanity. I watched this with the Clearplay player so most of this was cut out, however if you see it unedited you’ll encounter various forms of killing witches – cutting off their heads, using fire or shooting arrows through them [usually with bloody,[“graphic” results]. Both Hansel and Gretel endure beatings. Witches transform from beautiful to ugly [frightening] in the blink of an eye – they kidnap and plan on killing children. The profanity is heavy in spots including unfortunate, multiple uses of the F-word [all of which are cut in edited form], and other minor profanities like h*ll, da*n, etc. There are some minor sexual innuendoes – and we see a shot of a naked couple swimming [there are shots of her from the side and front, waist up].