Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (3D)
Cert: 15 / 88 mins / Dir. Tommy Wirkola
I'm not sure where this movie belongs, in the grand scheme of things. Considering its fairytale roots, it's ahead of Red Riding Hood and Snow White in terms of modern edginess, but there's still too much of the inherent tweeness preventing it from really re-inventing the genre the way the makers had obviously hoped.
Some nifty looking sets, costumes and props sit uncomfortably with a plot so linear and mechanical, you could set your watch by it. The small number of reveals that the screenplay holds are so clearly telegraphed that the real surprise, to me, was that they actually went ahead and had characters announcing them. I won't 'spoil' the movie here, but the first 15 minutes of the film will tell you everything that's going to happen. The actual script itself is largely workable, but the infrequent scattering of fuck-words sticks out like a studio hoping to earn a higher certificate and distance itself from the Twilight clones that are now haemorrhaging forth. There's not enough swearing for it to become a feature or feel like it's meant to be there*1, and the two times where it really could have stood out and worked are muted by the others.
I get the feeling that Tommy Wirkola was aiming for a sort of Evil Dead vibe with the gore and humour, but has been hampered by having to stick to mainstream ideals. The fight-choreography is rather nice for a 'civilian' movie (when the editing allows you to see it properly), and there are some sweet looking effects, both practical and CGI… but apart from the odd decapitation, it all feels neutered, somehow. The potential is there for this to have been great at either end of the spectrum, but it's now too gory and sweary for young ones, and not enough for the grown-ups.
At a lean 88 minutes, you get the impression there's quite a lot of H&G:WH on the digital cutting-room floor. Although short, the running time is perfect for this story; it's just not so great for the supporting characters that feel like they've been forgotten about. The worst offender in this department is the amount of design and makeup time that obviously went into creating the cabal of witches at the climax of the film, only to have them all dispatched within a five minute slot*2. The 3D is fairly well rendered for live-action (and is in frequent use), but it doesn't add anything to the film at all.
So, if you can leave aside the number of different accents that can accumulate within a five-square-mile patch of Scandinavian forest, and the technology on display in the weaponry department while everyone's using horses, carts and eating out of wooden bowls, then Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is quite good fun. But that's all. It's not as clever or knowing as it'd like to be, and it's played its best hand in this one film; any sequels would only be retreading the same already-muddy ground. As cinematic as it wants to be, it's more of a night in with friends and drinks kind of a thing.
Oh, and I can't believe they totally "homaged" the speeder-bike chase from Return of the Jedi, like that.
I was expecting a lot less from Hansel & Gretel, but I feel like it should have been so much more.
Pretty much, yeah.
*1 And I'm someone who likes a good fucking swear. There just isn't any heart in it, in this movie.
*2 Come on, that's hardly a spoiler.
*3 I didn't hear one, and there were plenty of opportunities.
• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
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