Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

It's a tricky thing, retelling a fairy tale, or at least it seems to be in the movies. The writers have to find a way to make the story fresh without making it unrecognizable, and I have a feeling such ideas often seem much better on the page than they turn out on the screen, for various reasons. Sometimes you're pleasantly surprised by a Snow White and the Huntsman, and sometimes you end up with, well, a movie like this, which doesn't surprise you pleasantly or otherwise.

The chosen way to make the story fresh is to revisit the Hansel and Gretel characters after they've had twenty years or so to grow up. They didn't grow up normally, though. Even the darker, early versions of the tale have a generally happy ending, with the kids reunited with their grieving father after the evil stepmother (or mother, in some cases) has died, but not here. This time through they never saw either parent again, and simply wandered the woods and small villages helping rescue other children from other witches.

When all grown up, they're played by Jeremy Renner (The Bourne Legacy) and Gemma Arterton (Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time). Hansel in particular can't really be said to have grown up emotionally, though that isn't really a surprise when you consider that he's spent his whole life thinking his parents didn't want him and everyone else in the world is too stupid even to know when they're dealing with a witch.

There's a bit early on, you see, when he and Gretel rescue a woman named Mina (played by Pihla Viitala) who's about to be sentenced to death by a very angry and stubborn Peter Stormare, who I reviewed just last week in The Last Stand. He's the sheriff in the little town of Augsburg. He insists that the pretty Mina is an evil witch, but I think she just wouldn't go out with him, because the thing about witches in this world is that they are, by definition, somehow deformed. One has horns, for instance, and nearly all seem to have some serious issues with dry skin. In other words, you know at a glance who's a witch and who isn't, though to be fair, your average villager is probably quite content to go through life without ever having seen a witch. Augsburg is a real town, by the way, the only German city to have its very own holiday: Friedensfest, or Peace Festival.

They aren't very peaceful at the moment, since almost a dozen children have vanished recently, taken by witches, and they want someone to blame. They should be blaming Famke Janssen of Taken 2, who is some sort of head witch in the area and who has a sinister plan for a lovely celestial event called the Blood Moon. This naturally requires lots of small children as sacrifices, because as Hansel insists, the only good witch is a dead witch.

There's a troll, which was at least a bit of a surprise, especially since his name is Edward. He's played by Derek Mears, who was the smaller Predator in Predators, which I was just rewatching the other day. Ingrid Bolsø Berdal of the Chernobyl Diaries moves up into a slightly better class of movie, though she's so buried under witch makeup you can't tell. Ditto for Famke Janssen a lot of the time, though I think she may have been happier that way. She doesn't seem to have quite shaken off the taint of X-Men: The Last Stand, which is a shame. I hear she took the role mainly so she could pay off her mortgage.

So let's see: definitely better than Chernobyl Diaries (rated 2.5, a runner-up for one of the three worst of 2012), but both too gory and too predictable to be anything more than a slightly guilty pleasure. Two and seven-eighths is an awkward number, but I think I'll have to go with that. Considering the sort of movies surrounding it in the theatres right now, it seems more like a three and a quarter, but in a few months that will wear off, and I'd hate to feel like I misled anyone.

Image: 
The gang in front of the witch's burning house. Not in the final cut.

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nice articles

nice articles

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