Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013)
★ / ★★★★
Eleven children are missing and the town is desperate to hold someone responsible. Despite a lack of evidence, they welcome anyone in suspicion of being a witch to be burned at the stake. To gain control of the madness, the mayor hires Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton), siblings who hunt witches for a living. They discover that a sabbath called The Blood Moon, led by Muriel (Famke Janssen), a dark witch, is to occur in three days and one more child, a girl born in April, will be kidnapped for sacrifice.
A sinking feeling enveloped my senses while watching “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters,” written and directed by Tommy Wirkola. Instead of being a fun, silly, and engaging action-fantasy, the picture is largely composed of random scenes of ostentatious–at times gratuitous–violence. Meanwhile, the story moves slower than a snail’s pace. By the time the third act comes around, it is near impossible to care about what will transpire.
There is no strong connective tissue to pull the scenes together in such a way that is practical with respect to its own universe. As a result, it is often choppy. To compensate, when the next scene begins, there is almost always an attempt at explaining what is going on and why characters are taking certain courses of action. It gets boring real quick because it rarely breaks away from this approach.
The script is inconsistent and the dialogue is as dead as a fish that has been out of the water for a week. Characters like the siblings are allowed to utter anachronistic phrases which, I guess, is supposed to make them sound cool or modern, but others–though not all of them–speak with archaic tongues. Further, there is no punchline in the would-be amusing remarks. Perhaps the contrast might have worked if the screenplay had had a solid grip with its universe. Instead, it sounds like the filmmakers are trying to appeal to or impress the younger audiences, specifically those who crave only empty calories of visual acrobatics, instead of treating their work with dignity.
My favorite character is a troll named Edward (voiced by Derek Mears). He is so ugly but he has such a presence. Unlike the witches and the witch hunters, the troll does not pose as if it were in a photoshoot after a big action scene. It just walks away and when the attention is back on the humans, my mind goes back to the creature with gigantic face and hands. I started to think about how the film might have had a bit of an edge if the story were told through the troll’s point of view, a reclusive being feared by humans and treated by witches as slaves.
There is a subplot involving Hansel and Gretel’s history regarding their parents and, of course, a house made up of confections. But the subplot is not neatly tied into the main story. It simply appears and disappears whenever it is convenient. By the end, the whole thing is as mind-numbingly dull as it is frustrating because its potential just sits there.