Last night I learnt an important lesson; it is very difficult to eat a cinema hotdog while wearing 3D glasses.
We went to see Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Everyone knows the story of Hansel and Gretel, the children left in the woods by their father, who end up in the gingerbread house being fattened by a witch who they burn to death in the fire. Well, this is the sequel. Hansel and Gretel are all grown up and they travel from village to village, presumably around the world, killing witches. Then one job brings the past back to haunt them.
I wasn’t expecting a lot from this film but actually, it wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. Sure, I wanted to walk out and leave at the beginning but I didn’t and after a while I settled into it. One of the first things to annoy me what the quality of acting from the two children playing Hansel and Gretel. Not really the kids’ fault I suppose, and they weren’t as bad as Emma Watson in the first Harry Potter film but still, everything was a little exaggerated and a tinsy bit wooden.
The next thing that annoyed me and that continued to annoy me throughout the film were the accents. This is one of those films that pays no attention to what country they’re in. Ok, so it’s a fantasy but the setting is Medieval Europe and our heroes have American accents. I’m guessing that since Gemma Arterton (Gretel) is actually British that she put on this accent to make it more believable that she is Jeremy Renner’s (Hansel) sister. Therefore, I blame Renner for this annoyance. Nothing rips me out of a Medieval setting quicker than an American accent. It wasn’t all their fault, however, the entire film is plagued with British, American and one Norwegian and one Finnish accent. The Norwegian (Ingrid Bolsø Berdal playing a witch) and Finnish (Phila Vitala playing Mina) accents win. Hansel and Gretel are supposed to be German.
Another issue with the Medieval Europe setting in this film is the amount of swearing. The first time Gretel said ‘fucking’ loud and clear I was completely shocked. I’m not prudish and I’m not against swearing, but the amount of swearing in this film ripped me out of the story. It simply wasn’t believable.
So these were my first impressions. I wasn’t happy but then we watched Hansel and Gretel attack a witch and that was when things began to change. The witch was grotesque and quick and awesome and then she climbed onto a branch and shot backwards out of a window. Suddenly this film had my attention! So Hansel and Gretel were a little cringey, but the witches might just save this film.
Famke Janssen (Jean Grey in X-Men) is a grand witch and, at first, is breathtaking. She even seems to attempt a British accent at first, for some reason.
I don’t want to give too much away but I’m afraid I have to in order to make my next point. In this film there are ‘bad’ witches and ‘white’ (good) witches. How can you tell the difference? The bad witches are ugly, full of character with horns or scaly skin. The ‘white’ witches are stunningly beautiful. Now, hang on just a minute. Who thought that up? Famke Janssen is a great actress and when she’s using her own, beautiful face she has the potential to send shivers through me. She’s dangerous and haunting. Then her face becomes scaled and suddenly the acting goes out the window. While the aesthetics of the bad witches is interesting and scary in places, it’s also sickening that this is the main way to tell the difference between good and bad witches. Give me an ugly ‘white’ witch and I will stop being offended.
On a similar thread, Gemma Arterton is stunningly beautiful in this film. On certain camera angles she looks like Liv Tyler and she’s lucky to have that Hollywood power of being able to make her breasts bigger when the scene or camera angle calls for it. Have you seen Van Helsing starring Hugh Jackman? Gretel is very similar to Kate Beckinsale’s Anna Valerious; beautiful, pouty, strong and sometimes unrealistically fast and gravity defying. Actually, Hansel and Gretel is very similar to Van Helsing in looks and action sequences.
The fight sequences are fast, fairly well choreographed and just as unbelievable as the rest of the film. The final fight scene was the one that did it for me. Hansel is smacked on the head with a shovel and simply gets up and carries on. Seriously?
Actually, Hansel is an interesting character. He’s sweet and kind with barriers to keep people getting too close. He’s also diabetic as a result of the witch force feeding him sweets when they were being held by the original gingerbread witch. This is a stroke of genius and Hansel periodically has to inject himself. Unfortunately this is taken too far as he is stopped at a vital moment, desperately in need of his injection. Gretel saves him and he immediately gets back up and carries on as if nothing has happened.
Despite all of my criticism, I warmed to Gretel (Arterton). Despite her shockingly good looks, she had more of a story than Hansel and therefore a tiny bit more depth. She thinks things through and she seemingly cares more about people than Hansel. She has fewer walls up than Hansel who really only cares about his sister.
The other character that stood out to me as someone to care about is Edward (or Andrew as my husband calls him), the troll. Edward literally tells Gretel one of the twists in the tale so that everyone in the audience gets it but still Gretel doesn’t seem to. Edward, to me, harks back to those loveable characters in the classic fantasy films of Labryinth and Dark Crystal. I couldn’t help but love him.
Despite thinking things through, Gretel still didn’t come to the conclusion that I (and I imagine everyone else) did at the beginning of the film until the end. Sadly this film was just too predictable, the acting was awful considering the casting and there were far too many cringey moments that are difficult to escape with this type of film. It seemed to miss the mark in places and therefore showed a lot of potential but didn’t quite pull it off. There is unnecessary swearing but on the other hand there are some very gruesome, almost comicl deaths.
It’s bad, but it’s not awful. It’s fun and action packed and the 3D glasses made everything just a little bit blurry, which may or may not have helped.