Yep…. your Favorite Catgirl’s actually been to the cinema for “Movie Nite” this time out, and the film? Why, the fantasy fairy tale action horror mash-up, “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters” of course….
Our Synopsis? How this then: “All the world knows the story of innocent brother and sister, Hansel & Gretel and their nearly tragic woodland excursion to a wicked witch’s candy cottage deep in the woods one dark and spooky night. But… what happened to them after that? Why, they grew up of course… and traded in their carefree youth to become the world’s most hardened deadly professional Witch Hunters in all the land. Now… wherever evil lurks, whenever children are at risk, there will be a fearless avenging duo of deadly killers to put things right and see that all wicked witches get their just deserts!”
After the recent fairytale cinema “re-imaginings”, like “The Brothers Grimm”, “Little Red Riding Hood” and “Snow White & The Huntsman” it seems everybody wants to do their own retake on a favorite old story, and what could be more perfect than a story about child eating old Hags and the leather clad siblings who hunt them? Think this crazy Catgirl would ever want to miss that sort of silly goofy movie fun? Nawwww….
But the real question is, of course, what did yours truly think of all the medieval butt-kicking action as our frisky brother & sister open up that family sized can of whup-ass on all the evil witches they can get their hands on? Guess you’ll wanna “Read On” and find out….
This wasn’t just a “Movie Nite Feature” for lil’ ol’ me…. it was also a chance to finally throw off the generally “blehhh” feelings I’ve been stuck with since coming down sick last month and get some nice quality time with my sweetie and enjoy an evening out for a change to combat the cabin fever we’ve both been afflicted with as Winter winds down in our parts. Surprisingly… being such a goofy fan of movies in general…. it’s actually rare for me to go out to see one on the big screen anymore. I used to go to the movies quite a bit when I was a girl, but now that I’m grown up it’s just gotten easier to catch most of my films on DVD these days. Being a fan of weird foreign films only reinforces that, given that most of the ones I want to see don’t ever get released to cinemas here in the states outside of larger cities. But… with a girlfriend who aches to see a movie once in a while… any movie… where they actually do speak English throughout and there are no subtitles to be seen anywhere, I actually do manage to catch one now and again on the big screen. And…. as it turns out, this one wasn’t actually all that hard a sell for me to convince Carolyn to watch either. With a vibe strongly reminiscent of “Van Helsing” crossed with “Buffy The Vampire Slayer”, she was actually quite interested to see it herself. (She’s a huge “Buffy” fangirl…. )
So what’s the general idea with this one then? Well Norwegian director Tommy Wirkola (of Nazi Zombie film “Dead Snow” fame) took the old German fairytale, gave it some of that crazy anachronistic action comedy found in the old “Hercules” and “Xena” TV series, spiced it with a lot of Steampunk weaponry, Asian wuxia inspired combat, and let it all run wild for a good 88 minutes of mind numbing exploitative film-making where just about anything goes and nothing could be considered too over-the-top. Sound confusing?
No… not really. It’s all very easy to follow… perhaps even a bit too easy… with a cast of somewhat simplistic and cardboard character stereotypes doing all the expected “action-y” things you’d expect in a film like this. This is probably the biggest problem this film really has when looked at critically. There really are no surprises with our cast list… and no real chance to see them grow beyond these stock character types into something novel or new. Too bad, there’s a lot of potential fun in the idea behind this film.
I did rather like the spunky duo for the most part, and especially felt a sort of guilty jealousy at Gemma Arterton’s cool confident femme fatale approach to the role of Gretel. She’s a real “hands on” sort of lady when it comes to the profession of Witch Slaying…. just the sort of role model this “Warrior Princess” wannabee always wanted to be when she was a wee lass. But for all of her bad-ass coolness and Jeremy Renner’s smart-ass womanizing antics as her brother and fellow hunter, Hansel, neither really comes across as any more than just that shallow image. Supposedly, these two have a unbreakable brother/ sister bond due to their tragic mysterious loss of their parents as kids, but no real time gets spent to highlight that side of their relationship. In short… there’s no “heart” to these characters to make you become invested in them as a viewer.
Mind you… our local villagers are just as bland and undefined too as well as our evil coven of witches, led by the “Grand Witch” Muriel (played by Famke Janssen). There is a lot of interesting questions completely ignored by our story that could have made for some excellent scenes. For one… although the film makes it clear early on that witches are easy to detect by the corrupting degeneration that magic use has on their bodies, apparently a “Grand Witch” can use her powers to mask herself with beauty and move among the people unsuspected. Given this, I had sort of hoped to see Muriel working to undermine our duo throughout the story in her human guise as one of the villagers until she was unmasked in some dramatic fashion…. had expected to see what sort of “day job” she had at the very least. But… nope.
Not that I didn’t enjoy what was on hand for the show… it’s only that this one probably wont end up becoming a “classic” film, warmly or fondly remembered years from now by hordes of fans and spawning imitators of it’s own or donating any new lasting ideas to the genre. Sigh….
Now… on the plus side, the “action-y” bits are really well done. The Witches are just freaky bad-ass by themselves… with lots of evil spells… flying brooms… magic wands that double as ray-guns…. supernatural strength, speed, and agility… honking big ol’ Trolls as minions… and they all seem to have studied kung-fu at the “Chow Yun Fat Crouching Tiger School of Wuxia Butt-kicking”. Seriously. These ladies are a whole lot more than just butt ugly old hags that like to eat kids… it seems all of them can mix it up like psychotic MMA fighters on crack. Thank goodness Hansel & Gretel have some crazy mad hand-to-hand combat skills of their very own…. as well as the biggest collection of crazy Steampunk weapons and gadgets outside of Van Helsing’s Vatican supplied toys. Do either of these story elements make all that much sense? Nawwwww… but boy, do they make for some fun looking fight scenes. And basically that’s pretty much what this movie is all about.
So what is the basic story here then? Well… basically… it seems Muriel and her evil coven is planning on holding the big honking Evil Sabbath ritual of “The Blood Moon”, a rare lunar conjunction, which requires sacrificing six boys and six girls, each born on a separate month to allow Muriel and her evil “Sisters in Sin” to finally make themselves all proof against the purifying power of Fire. Fire retardant witches? Ohhhhh crap… now that can’t be a good thing, right?
Luckily, our heroes have no intention of letting them get away with this plan and so the big ol’ fight is on, with Hansel and his sister finally discovering the truth behind the disappearance of their Mother and Father all those years ago along with uncovering the secret of their seemingly miraculous immunity to the mind influencing spells of witches. Oh… and they even manage to find out that for all their hatred of all things “magical” and “witchy”… it seems not all Witches are Evil…..
Yes… pretty much as both Carolyn and I… as well as most everybody else watching figured out… our two heroes are, themselves, the children of one of these “White Witches”… yep, those earth friendly wiccan women who know all about healing and fertility and the “good” powers of magic, pledged never to use their spells to harm humans. One of the required elements of the evil ritual just happens to be the heart of a White Witch, sliced from her chest at the culmination of the Sabbath. Darn…. guess it really sucks to be Gretel, given that.
Thankfully, Hansel has caught the eye of Mina (played by Pihla Viitala)… a local White Witch nearly burnt at the stake by the crazy local Sheriff until the duo saved her from him and his paranoid deputies. There’s a really nice potential for a sweet bit of romance… but unfortunately it seem they needed more screen time for the butt-kicking so this all gets somewhat abbreviated and pushed to the back burner. A shame… since we both were in the mood for a little romantic sub plot by the middle of this one. At least she’ll be on hand to lend some magical support once the gigantic blockbuster climax rolls around.
The film builds to that big crescendo… as every Evil Witch left in the world seems to show up for the big ritual and our heroes arm up with their allies to climb up to the old stone circle on the haunted mountain and go all “Rambo” on their asses, save the kids, kill the witches, and take revenge for the deaths of their parents once and for all. It’s done in one big, gruesomely fun bloodbath… I’ll give them that.
So… all together we ended up enjoying ourselves, even if the experience really was nothing more than a vicarious bit of cinema junk food. I can still give this one a very solid 3 “Meows” out of 5. It’s not a risk taking film… it’s not a great “character piece”… but it is a fun bloody romp made with sufficient skill and story to entertain on a basic level. Hey… it gave us a nice evening out together… and that’s what we were hoping for so that makes it a winner in my book. All our “Movie Nites” out should definitely be as much fun…..
Oh, yes…. dear visitor and as always, there’s a Trailer of course, and so here it goes!