I’m the kind of person that loves defending my guilty pleasure movies, especially the 2004 action/fantasy/horror film Van Helsing. There are certain movies that you have to go in to and just forget about all the rules and be able to switch your brain off for a little bit. Those are some of my favorite kinds of movies, and Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters definitely falls into the brainless category. Here’s the thing, this certainly can’t be objectively classified as a “good movie.” Sure. What I can personally classify it as is a new guilty pleasure that could have used just a little bit more energy.
After surviving a traumatic encounter with a witch in her house of candy (we’ve all heard the story), Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) dedicate their lives to hunting down and slaying witches. It’s a bloody business, but somebody has to do it, and they just so happen to do it well. After being hired by the town’s mayor, the duo arrive in Augsburg to take on a job to catch a group of witches that have been taking children from the town. What starts out as a run of the mill mission for the two witch hunters ultimately turns into something completely different when they learn that they are dealing with a grand witch named Muriel (Famke Jannsen), who has powers far greater than anyone they’ve ever faced. As blood continues to be spilled by the gallons, Hansel and Gretel gear up for their final confrontation with Muriel, and a more mysterious confrontation with their own past.
So let’s just get the obvious out of the way. Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is not meant to be taken seriously, and anyone who tries to take it with even an ounce of seriousness will begin nitpicking at the most unimportant little flaws, and therefore miss the point of the entire movie. The film’s writer/director, Tommy Wirkola, is no stranger to the world of ridiculous movies. After all, he’s the guy who made Dead Snow and its sequel. This is a movie that is meant to be viewed as just a silly way to escape from reality for a short while, and the movie does its job… sort of. Alright, yeah, it could’ve been better.
I’m gonna start with the negatives, because they’re just no fun at all. Some of the writing in this movie is shockingly awful, and I’m not talking about the one liners. I love the one liners. I’m talking about the characters and their interactions with one another. As the movie progressed and the action scenes would take a break, the characters seemed like they were trying to develop and form relationships with one another, but it just never happened. This made it hard to care about when something good or bad happened to anyone. Even if you aren’t meant to take a movie seriously, you still have to care about what happens. There were also a few characters that were wasted before they even had the potential to do anything. It would’ve been cool to see Hansel and Gretel team up with a few more people to take down this gang of witches, but I’ll take what I can get. Finally, Famke Janssen’s acting got a liiiiiiiittle too annoying for me to handle at points. She just doesn’t pull of the “over the top evil” thing as well as others.
Let’s be real though, this is a movie I’m going to remember and have fun talking about, because it’s a movie that looked like it was a blast to write and even more of a blast to make. There’s style in every inch of this movie. It’s steam punk meets a Grimm fairy tale, complete with exploding heads, some excellent make up, and Gemma Arterton… I love this woman. Anyway, what I’m trying to say is that this movie is a treat (no pun intended). I feel like in a world of remakes and reboots, it’s cool to see a completely unique twist on something that is very well known, a twist that is packed to the brim with imagination. You can sort of feel Wirkola’s passion about this film leaping off the screen. This is a movie he wanted to make, and it shows, even though there are major flaws. Despite the flaws, you have to admire the attention and focus that Wirkola seemed to put into making his vision come to life.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is not a movie that’s going to be forgotten too soon, like it or not. I can almost guarantee that in ten or twenty years time, people will still be using it as an excuse to create a new drinking game, and those people have the right idea. This is a movie made purely to entertain, no matter how you watch it. There’s a lot of sloppiness splattered throughout the entire hour and a half run time, but the movie never loses its fast pace and its sly, self aware sense of humor. If you go into this movie expecting to hate it or expecting anything that is going to challenge your cinematic sensibilities, just relax. Remember how to have fun, just for a little bit, and you might just have a good laugh.