For all of its violent bombast, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is a boring and plodding riff on the classic fairy tale that wastes it two lead actors.
Adding to the never ending stream of movies based on fairy tales (Mirror Mirror, Red Riding Hood), Hansel & Gretel… tries yet fails to shock and awe with it visually jubilant violence. Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola has proven his love for blood-play with his breakthrough Dead Snow (which featured Nazi Zombies), yet his Hollywood debut does no favours in establishing himself as a go to guy able to handle big projects led by big stars.
The big stars here are Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton. Exactly why they agreed to headline Hansel & Gretel… is a mystery. Perhaps its potential was worth the eventual black mark in their filmographies.
Regardless they give their all as grown-up versions of the popular characters written by The Brothers Grimm, although it’s positive that the legendary German storytellers could never imagine their creations would be packing automatic weapons and speaking in American accents, such is the confusing mish-mash of Wirkola’s fantasy universe where geography and technology have no logical grounding.
After surviving attempted murder by witch, Hansel & Gretel grow up to become witch hunters extraordinaire always ready with a loaded automatic and a cracking-wise pun. The pair however meet a match in a grand wicked witch with plans of blood-filled domination, played by a hammy yet eternally beautiful Famke Janssen.
A mixture of action, horror and comedy, Hansel & Gretel… barely raises pulses in either of those categories. Sure the violence is graphic and tone suitably silly, yet Wirkola’s steadfast refusal to draw any feelings towards his characters or any stakes in the numerous action filled scenarios results in a ho-hum example of not only style over substance, but also over any redeeming entertainment value bar watching Renner think to himself, “What the hell am I doing here? I’ve got two Oscar nominations!”
It makes sense as to why Paramount Pictures would insist in having Hansel & Gretel… presented in the 3D format (half filmed, half post converted), since when in doubt go for novelty (or in this case novelty upon novelty). Yet even that extra-dimension add-on is dull, mainly made up of blood-splatter and flaming arrows flying towards the screen.
After the failure of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, it’s time that Hollywood studios take a pass on this style of mash-up hybrids. It’ll save them the effort, but most of all it’ll save us from the misfortune of having to see talented people waste their and our time.