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Really Wish That Witch At the Beginning Killed Them So It Would've Never Happened

  • Jan 28, 2013
There is a certain amount of fun in watching some of the most terrible movies out there.  The Resident Evil movies are bad for instance, but they're funny bad.  Movies that you can see, know they're terrible but still have a good time with in some way, shape or form.  Twilight falls into the same boat, but to a much more extreme degree (meaning that Resident Evil can be fun... but Twilight is so bad it's hilarious).  And then you have movies that are intriguingly bad like The Amazing Spider-Man.  Movies that you SHOULD watch because you can really learn something from them about film, storytelling and realizes that even the bad movies have their potential (as you can imagine I'm looking forward to the sequel).  And then you have movies like Hansel and Gretel.  It's the perfect fodder for a terribly good time but in the end it's just terrible.  It's not the kind of movie you have fun picking at or is amusingly bad.  It's just bad.  Scratch that, it's the kind of movie that is so terrible it's hardly worth noting just HOW terrible it is. 

The basic story of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is a simple one.  It takes the tale of Hansel and Gretel where they got captured by a witch who wanted to fatten them up and pretty much says, "Hey, what would happen if you went beyond the moment where the witch gets shoved in the oven?  What if you went beyond the ending?"  Apparently they decided they'd become witch hunters who would run around blasting the shit out of witches, that's what.  This movie comes with the strange fascination of two things.  The first is this idea that dark and gritty sells.  The second is trying a sort Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter kind of spin.  But where as Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter was a stylish film with some decent action and eventually boiling down to something, Hansel and Gretel is just a movie where it's sets of jokes get really boring before we've even hit the twenty minute mark.  From then on you're just wondering when it'll be over and when you can finally go back to forgetting it ever existed.  The terribleness of this movie makes the Twilight saga look like The Godfather by comparison.

It's wrong to expect plot or much of anything out of Witch Hunters.  You'd think you'd actually be cool with that because of the intense action you should be getting from it.  And at first some of the action is kind of cool but before long it's boring when you realize it's more or less the same thing over and over and over and over again.  And while i"m sometimes okay with that sort of stuff, Hansel and Gretel never had the "cool" factor going for it (but they so clearly think that they do).  It tries to set the tone early with the witch at the beginning, which only sort of adds to the terrible nature of it.  The witches are apt to remind you of the hissing vampires from 30 Days of Night.  It really pushes the blood and gore, the hissing and roaring type stuff.  Only this time it's coming from witches.  They're never seen as really threatening, scary or even amusing.  And then the majority of them die mostly by having their heads blown off or some unusually gory bloody way of dying, the amusement of which wears off because at some point there is just no point or context to it.  Certainly some guys will have fun with this... but here's why it just doesn't work.  See, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters isn't some kind of joke of a movie with an undertone to it.  It's not serious either, but it wants you to take it seriously while you're having fun.  The plot is paper thin, which isn't really a bad thing in and of itself, but you do have to contend with the idea that this movie isn't exactly trying to make fun of anything or satirize anything.  It's really trying to play the idea of witch hunters straight. 

And that's sort of the problem with it.  Because of how it plays it straight, there is this sense that you should either be taking it seriously or just dismissing it outright.  And even with dismissing it outright some of the stuff pulled here is still so terrible that it's not even amusing how bad it is.  You really just sort of think to yourself, "Who in their right mind looked at this script and greenlit it?"  And then you think about Jeremy Renner who, for the most part, has a had a track record lately of making some really good movies (The Hurt Locker, The Town, The Avengers) and some decent pictures (The Bourne Legacy) and wonder just how in the hell someone like him got saddled with this.  Did he need money really badly?  Did he make a deal with the devil.  "Do Hansel and Gretel and I assure you you'll get an Oscar for a totally different and good movie!"  For everyone involved the movie just seems like a waste of talent.

So yes, there's a lot that I'll probably be rambling about in this review.  But mostly because I generally enjoy movies like this for that very reason.  They're NEVER good.  Let's be clear on that.  They are NEVER any good.  They never go beyond being 1-Star fodder and if we're doing a grading scale they're usually D- at best.  They're NEVER good.  But they're usually, at least, fun.  Hansel and Gretel, however... is not fun.  But let's be clear, Hansel and Gretel just isn't even amusing with how bad it is.  Usually movies like this tend to be so terribly done that they're hilariously bad.  Hansel and Gretel just becomes really boring after a certain amount of time.  That time being around twenty minutes.

So here's the scoop.  After they kill their first witch as children, Hansel and Gretel become witch hunters.  They become famous for their exploits.  We see them in a village where a woman is about to be burned for being a witch until Gretel comes to save her.  Because she's not actually a witch.  One can usually tell.  I mean, they SHOULD be able to tell.  All the witches in the movie look so horrendously horrible that how the villagers DON'T know what a witch looks like from a typical human being (or "good" witch as you'll later find out) makes you question the intelligence here.

But going beyond that, there are a bunch of children missing in this village.  And the pattern becomes obvious to Hansel and Gretel, but it's quite alarming how fast and how well they figure it all out.  It's not that it's unbelievable and totally hokey, but rather that they just sort of know. 

I think what's the most annoying, however, is how full of itself the movie is, and how tiresome so much of it gets after a while.  You can figure out all the twists and turns immediately in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.  It relies on just about every cliche you can think of.  But they're all executed horribly, is the problem.  The twist concerning Gretel is something you can tell from the get go.  The twist concerning the woman they save at the very start?  If you can't figure it out the moment you see her it's only going to be because it's so obvious that you'd say to yourself, "They wouldn't possibly do something that dumb, would they?"  But they do.  Each time you think the producers couldn't do something more stupid than the last moment they totally do something that much dumber.  And at no point in time is it ever really any fun when it does.

There are a lot of moments that after a while just become boring.  Okay, we get it, Hansel and Gretel are witch killers who hunt witches and like to use some very extreme methods to do so.  But about the tenth time you see someone's head get blown off or gooey, fake strawberry blood fly it's just boring.  But it's not so much that it happens.  Again, it's all about execution.  And Hansel and Gretel is constantly trying to remind you this isn;t that Children's tale you've been told.  We're constantly watching as characters point guns at other characters desperado style before blowing their heads off and watching their blood and guts go flying everywhere.  After a while you get tired of Gretel acting non-chalant about someone's innards exploding all over the place and having to comment on how they've seen it and how non-impressive that is.  It's boring.  It's not entertaining and most of all it makes a movie that is so ridiculously short feel like it's a lot longer than it is. 

And that's the problem... it's boring.  Because they keep running with this one tired joke throughout the whole movie.  This joke of, "See?  Look at how we can blow this head off!  See?  Look at all the blood spatter we can put in here!"  It's not like when say... Quentin Tarantino had the Bride fighting the Crazy 88 in Kill Bill.  It's so over done and so over bloated here that even the joke loses all meaning long before the movie even gets to the halfway point.  But it's not really replaced with anything else.  It's one trick pony in that regard.  That's not to say there are no other jokes, it's only to say this particular joke just keeps getting pushed.  It's like candy.  Every now and then a little candy is okay.  But you keep gorging yourself on it and you'll eventually get sick of it.  This is what all the blood and gore in Hansel and Gretel is like.  We're not away from it long enough for there to be any sort of tension, even in moments where the movie is clearly pushing for it.  But more than that, there's nothing stylistic about it.  I suppose if I were thirteen I'd think this was really cool and funny.

The other jokes include things like... they're weaponry.  Again, pretty fun at first but the movie just never lets their weapons be their weapons.  It's always trying too hard to show us just how "cool" their weapons are.  Again, not so bad when the movie begins... tiresome a quarter of the way in.  Same thing goes for this particular gag where Hansel seems to always get hit in the face every time he walks into a home or something.  It's such a forgettable sight gag that someone had to actually tell me this was a thing in the movie. 

There's also this other thing about the movie where it is so hellbent on showing you that women can take just as much abuse on screen as men do.  Certainly they're witches and they're the bad guys so we expect that, but the movie is much more into it than you might expect.  The stuff that happens to Jeremy Renner's Hansel is funny while the stuff that happens to Gemma Arterton's Gretel is incredibly serious fare.  Some have gone on to say it's pretty misogynistic, but I don't really think so.  I mean, the witches are the bad guys after all, but the movie definitely doesn't hate women.  It's not like it's advocating abuse to women.  Witches just happen to be the antagonist (though, oddly enough, even Gretel takes a great deal more abuse than Hansel). 

There is something strange about making all the witches hiss and seer like the vampires in 30 Days of Night.  And by that I mean I never felt as though the witches were meant to be scary.  The problem that I've continuously had with this sort of style of making the "horror' type kind of monster is that they never come off as threatening, serious or even frightening this way.  Again, I point out, it's amazing how many villagers are so stupid that they can't pinpoint a witch when all of the witches look as horrible as they do.  It's so grotesque and overplayed out that even I think to myself, "I could kick this witches ass."  It's like that kid who acts big and tough without actually being big and tough.  The witches look hideous but they never come across as threatening.

At the very least, Hansel and Gretel avoid the idea of making the female antagonists go after beauty.  One thing that is constantly annoying about female villains in cinema is that the end game is almost always beauty.  And if it isn't beauty it has something to do with maternity.  And while I can commend Hansel and Gretel for ditching this in favor of a female antagonist that is actually searching for immortality, it still doesn't make up for the fact that so much of the movie is boring on every other front.  The plot isn't much to get upset about because of the very type of movie it is. 

But it also has a few things that either go no where, don't get developed or are just all out forced upon the audience.  Like the love interest that Hansel begins.  It's just there mostly because she's a chick and he's a dude.  And the only reason this seems to be here at all is so that you don't get the idea that Hansel and Gretel's relationship is somehow incestuous.  There's obviously a dude that likes Gretel in here as well, but he's relegated to being nothing more than a prop for a few minutes.  But in terms of plot developments that don't really go anywhere, Hansel also has to constantly give himself a shot with a syringe otherwise he'll die.  It has something to do with all that candy this witch forced him to eat as a child (diabetes, perhaps?  And that's not a joke, it's really the only thing I can think of) but the movie never really makes this important.  It never becomes something crucial.  There's never really a moment where it feels like it's integral to his character or important.  There's never a moment where he's missing his syringe (they try something like this at the end).  At no point during a major battle or moment does this actually inhibit Hansel in any way.  There's no point where this becomes a liability to him or where this particularly vulnerability is used to increase any tension.  It's just a terrible terrible means of trying to get you to see that Hansel isn't invincible.  But it pretty much fails when you realizes Hansel can fall from trees, hit every branch and be fine.  Or that he can get hit in the head eighty billion times and be fine.  Or that he can be stabbed and it mean nothing.  He just gets up and keeps going.

Gretel isn't much better.  Since Hansel has this, "If i don't take this shot when my watch goes off I'll die," the producers simply felt that to show you she wasn't invincible she gets the shit beat out of her.  A lot.  At least she's not a helpless damsel in distress.  For what it's worth, you sort of wish there were more female characters like her.  Not the kicking ass and taking names part.  But rather the, "I don't NEED a man to take of me, but I CAN work with one," type of stuff.  She's actually a pretty strong character.  Hell, she even gets to save Hansel on more than one occasion.  As a result she's actually a much more realized character than Hansel because we actually get to see her in a moment of weakness where as with Hansel his moments of weakness are just the punchline to a joke or showing he has a vulnerability that never even threatens to cost him... Gretel is actually shown to be vulnerable.  You actually sort of get the sense that she's in real danger.  But Hansel?  You just get the sense that he'll get punched once and then keep going like The Terminator or something.  Gretel isn't a compelling character by any means, but she's one of the only characters you'll actually remember when the movie is over (you'd forget Hansel if his name wasn't in the title).

There are quite a few plot threads that aren't given much attention, style or flare.  It would take too long to go into all of them.  But perhaps the last one that bears mentioning is the troll.  It's another character that's just kind of boring.  I'm sure many will like him but all he's really there for in the long run is to make sure the audience understands the plot twist concerning Gretel.  Aside from this he doesn't do too much in the long run.  I mean, sure he looks kind of cool and I'm sure a lot of kids in the audience got a kick out of the scene where he beats the shit out a few characters by killing them all in gleefully horrendous ways (although again, by this point the movie was already boring anyway) but it seemed like just another throwaway character. 

The action isn't much better in any regard.  Many times the cinematography is so jumbled that you can't actually see what is going on.  It's all over the place in some scenes.  Though some of it is pretty careful during some of the bloodier scenes so that it's not that explicit. 

Even the joke about the music is just boring after a bit.  So much of the production is done to sort of show this isn't the same old stuff that you're used to from Hansel and Gretel, but it's mostly just boring.  The stylistic things done get a lot more tiring before they get old.  Hansel and Gretel's arsenal of weapons was cool, but I got tired of seeing Hansel walk around like a badass with his gun over his shoulder.  I got tired of seeing the bad guys narrowly escape the bolts from Gretel's semi-automatic crossbow.  I got tired of watching witches get blown away or watching their heads get blown off (they just couldn't think of more creative ways to kill them?  All that emphasis on the blood and gore and yet we see all the witches die in pretty much the same three ways). 

When The Matrix Reloaded came out I recall there being one particular criticism of the film in particular.  It was called "Too cool for the room."  When a movie is doing so much to be cool that it pretty much... abandons its ambition.  And I think that's what's rather disappointing about Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters.  See, despite everything about Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter, there was some sort of ambition.  A parallel being drawn, if you will.  I mean it's not a good movie by any means (and yeah, that one is kind of boring too) but at least in the long run you left that one grasping the kind of joke they were going for.  Here, you sort of leave and forget about it, not even going so far as to think to yourself, "That was so bad it was hilarious."  Or that it was amusingly bad. 

Instead I walked out of Hansel and Gretel doing things like asking the names of certain characters because the movie glossed over them that I couldn't completely remember.  I did things like check my watch to see how much time had actually passed versus how long the movie actually was.  It's the kind of movie that someone may ask if I saw and I might reply that I did but I might not necessarily know if I'm telling the truth.  As I said, some movies are worth noting how bad they are.  But Hansel and Gretel is hardly even worthy of that.  And when you're movie is so bad it can't even be called terrible or people can hardly even get that much joy out of picking at it, then I'm not sure what you've got.  Really, Hansel and Gretel is a mess of a movie.  It doesn't want you to take it seriously, but it plays most of its tropes so straightforward that that it does seem to want you to take something away from it.  I'm just not quite sure what that was, exactly.

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More Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunte... reviews
review by . January 25, 2013
posted in Movie Hype
Have A Ball as Evil Witches Go Splatter and Boom!
Director Tommy Wirkola’s (the guy who gave us “Dead Snow“) “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” had the kind of trailer that gave me the impression that it would be something out of “The Brothers Grimm” (with Matt Damon and Heath Ledger) and “Van Helsing” (with Hugh Jackman) playbook with some “Blade-esque“ touches to spare. Well, the film may be all those things, and maybe a little more different than what I expected. To cut through …
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Sean A. Rhodes ()
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I'm a more analytical person. I believe that the purpose of the review is not for me to give you my opinion but for me to give you an analysis and help you decide if you want to get it. If you reading … more
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