It is a good thing to go into a film with low expectations, because that way you will not be disappointed and maybe even pleasantly surprised. Although far from brilliant, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was not as bad as I expected it to be. Renner and Arterton, as the famous siblings, are not particularly thrilling when they are on-screen together – mostly as they attempt to prevent their relationship coming off as incestuous – but they have some good moments individually.
The film carries on beyond the general Hansel and Gretel story that we know. The pair have grown up and their past has induced a will to fight and kill witches – who are delightfully nasty and creatively conceptualised, the film displaying a wide variety in all shapes and sizes, while revelling in fun clichés such as flying on a broom. Between the witches, the inane sheriff and the witch hunters, there are some entertaining action scenes pumped, as these types of films usually are, with a hardcore soundtrack; and in spite of some terribly awkward one-liners, there are a few wickedly funny bits too.
The village setting is fairly nondescript and the inhabitants equally bland and seemingly without origin as they prattle in a host of different accents. The American accents are quite grating; but it is better than listening to poorly executed British accents. Whether or not Renner is capable of pulling off a good accent that is not American is unknown to me, but I was grateful that he didn’t try. Gemma Arterton, funnily enough, is British, yet pulls off a flawless American accent; but the Brits (and Aussies and everyone really) are usually able to pull it off.
There are elements to the story which some may find silly, but I found to be cleverly quirky such as Hansel becoming a diabetic (makes sense doesn’t it?) and the fanboy who adoringly follows the siblings’ adventures in the “media”. Even though it has a medieval-type setting, these aspects modernise it and make it fun for a young audience (although the violence pushes the age restriction up to 16). It may seem historically inaccurate or unfaithful to the source, but this is not exactly a film which is trying to be profound or precise and Grimms’ tales have been reshaped and re-imagined so many times through the centuries that a new take is not exactly a new or shocking notion.
Despite some nice ideas the script, with its rather insipid plot, is not particularly inspired. Tommy Wirkola’s (director and writer) willingness to create a live-action fairytale in an era saturated with comic book heroes in (predominantly) modern contexts is simultaneously brave and self-indulgent. It is, however, worth noting that the critically slated Buffy the Vampires Slayer, a fantasy film with a few trite moments of its own, was written by Joss Whedon…and look what happened to him, as well as to Buffy.