Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Since the debut of the trailer for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters a few months ago, we all kinda knew what we were going to be in for. It looked terrible. Coming from the MTV stable which produced such gems as Jackass: The Movie, Beavis & Butthead Do America, and Dirty Sanchez: The Movie there was little threat that this was going to be one of the movies of the year. When the reviews started trickling in from the rest of the world they were extremely divided, but the bulk of the positive reviews came from the batshit crazy hell hole that is Tumblr (so none of those opinions count). It was all looking pretty bleak, but I was optimistically hopeful when I headed along to the cinema. Join me under the cut to find out what I thought.

I’m going to cut straight to the chase here. Hansel & Gretel was an utterly terrible movie...and I absolutely loved it. Sure, the script was limp and the acting questionable, but if you’d seen the trailer you already knew you wouldn’t be seeing this one to appreciate the ‘craft’. You were going to see it to appreciate Gemma Arterton and Jeremy Renner in leather. Shooting guns and being sassy, with every second shot being a big ‘hero shot’ in amongst all the hilariously low-budget gore. That’s what you were seeing it for. And it delivered in spades.

You probably already know most of the Hansel & Gretel origin story; kiddies are lost in the woods, find a candy house and gorge like little piglets, then they’re captured by a witch who wants to eat their tender little childflesh. They manage to escape by pushing the witch into her own oven, and then toddle off into the sunset presumably. The movie picks up a couple of decades later, with the orphan siblings having developed a taste for witch blood and devoting their lives to saving people and hunting things (now why does that sound so familiar...?). And, uh, as a result of being force-fed so much candy by the witch, Hansel has developed diabetes and has to give himself regular injections otherwise he passes out. Obviously.

But before we go too much further, there’s something we have to discuss. Hansel’s gun.

Hansel’s gun looks like a penis.

It’s not even a gun that was designed with an accidental resemblance to a penis, it’s an actual penis.

It’s thick and veiny, and you pump the head and it shoots. It’s a penis.

ASIDE from Hansel’s cock gun, the other elements of design in Hansel and Gretel were probably the strongest thing in the whole movie. The opening titles take us through the witch hunters’ career to date in a gorgeous ye olde cartoon animation (which is then ruined by the horrendous font they chose for the titles, but no mind). Hansel and Gretel are our steampunk heroes, clad in layers of leather and toting all number of modern gadgets with a vintage twist. The witches they battle are all so meticulously individually designed and well crafted that you almost feel sorry for the poor designer who invested months into these things only to have the bulk of them appear on screen for literally two minutes. 

Of course, I’d like to say what really made me love the movie was the gorgeous scenery and design and all of that sort of thing. It wasn’t. Surely you know we well enough by now to know it wasn't. It was this.

If it wasn't for Jeremy Renner, I never would have bothered with this one, and there’s probably a very small pool of actors who could have actually saved this movie for me. I'm in no way saying he does a great job with ‘using his acting’, because he’s essentially just a stony-faced Hawkeye with a sassy attitude and more lines, but everything else made up for it. Blue Steel Hansel, leather-clad Hansel, naked Hansel, sleepy drunk Hansel, makeout Hansel; there was a Hansel for everyone. A girl a few rows back in the cinema kept making funny noises whenever he did something particularly handsome and dashing, and I’m not saying I wasn’t right there with ya lady, but you probably need to not be making those noises in public. Gemma Arterton was obviously, ah, a fairly secondary element as far as I was concerned, but she only looked marginally less smokin’. If I could rock that corset and those leather pants as well as she did, I’d be very happy.

Something that actually REALLY surprised me was the feeling of nostalgia that hit when the troll character Edward was introduced. Everyone remembers at least one shitty TV movie from their childhood that they may have loved at the time, and while it may not have stood up upon re-watch as an adult, you still had a lot of good memories associated with it. The lumbering animatronic puppet Edward invoked that feeling of a crappy 80s fantasy movie where the filmmakers were trying to create their own version of a Henson character but didn’t quite get it right. Minus the swearing and gore, Hansel and Gretel could have easily been one of those derpy kids daytime movies that kids would have reminisced about 15 years down the track. I was feeling nostalgia for a movie I was watching for the first time! What the hell is with THAT?

Although I know there’s zero chance of a sequel (Jeremy Renner’s pained expression during all his red carpet appearances suggest he realised what a big mistake he made), the final scene that bleeds into the credits left the door open for one, and I must say if they had a better script writer on board, a sequel with the buddy quartet of Hansel, Gretel, Edward, and their little fanboy Ben would be a hell of a lot of fun. I almost enjoyed that final scene more than I did large sections of the rest of the movie (may or may not have had to do with Renner wearing a sleeveless vest). The movie sounds like it’s done relatively ok at the box office, but without a huge payday, I think they’d struggle to get the leads back for a second go.

Hansel and Gretel is a big dumb movie that is certainly not for everyone. If I was to compare it to 2012’s fantasy action derp-fest Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, I would say that Abe was a better movie, but I definitely enjoyed Hansel and Gretel more. Set your expectations very low and they’ll at least be met, if not ever so slightly exceeded.

I give Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters 3.5 Candy Cottages out of 5

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