If you’re planning an Orange Wednesday trip today, you’d do worse than to go see supernatural romp in the woods Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Played by The Avengers’ Jeremy Renner and Prince of Persia‘s Gemma Arterton, our lead characters are likeable enough – albeit ridiculously clad in S&M leather and complete with odd American accents. The names ‘Hansel’ and ‘Gretel’ sound distinctly European to me, but whatever – when was sense, logic and realism ever part of the Hollywood manifesto? Don’t worry though, as Gretel’s terrible American accent will only grate on you for the first third of the film. The rest of the time she’s too busy being badass or getting beaten up to talk in full sentences.
Before I go on to the full review, if you’re going to see this film later (or any other 3D offering) then please, please, please, please, please don’t forget your 3D glasses at home. I hate making this mistake with a burning passion, and feel nothing but bitter resentment towards a film that unexpectedly makes me pay for something I already own. However if you don’t currently own 3D glasses, then please buy some and then keep them in your bag or car so you have them handy when they’re needed. Alternatively, feel free to swing past my house and borrow a pair of the twelve I seem to have accumulated over the past few years. Don’t get off to a bad start like how I did, needlessly and begrudgingly forking out for a pair of plastic spectacles you already have sitting in a drawer at home.
Another top spectacle-related tip before going to see this film: if you wear glasses, don’t forget to wear contacts – or at least be prepared for the brilliantly unflattering glasses-over-glasses look. It’s uncomfortable and looks absurd. Why get called four eyes when you can actually have six?
Anyway, the narrative starts with the original fairytale that the story’s taken from, and one thing I have to say about the film is that it looks totally glorious. Stylistically it really strikes the right chord of fairytale-gone-badass, and the way it looks genuinely enhances the story. The first witch we meet in the infamous Candy House legitimately looks terrifying, and then after this scene where the children eventually triumph we’re taken right up to date with some suitably creepy opening credits. Unsurprisingly as the film title gives away, Hansel and Gretel have gone on from their childhood trauma to slay witches for a living. And this is where our story starts.
Fast-forwarding to the present-day, we see our heroes arrive in a town where all of the kiddies seem to be going amiss. This is because witches are stealing the town’s children at an unusually fast rate, which means that something seriously big and supernatural must be on the horizon. Of course after a little investigation, it turns out that what our heroes are having to contend with is a weird evil plan involving witches needing sacrificial children – so they can become impervious to fire and conquer the world (obviously). It’s quite fun to watch despite some extraordinary plot holes, but if you can suspend your disbelief for the whole hyper-supernatural witches thing then you can probably suspend it a little more to not question the rest.
Without giving too much away, lots of intense three-dimensional action follows the uncovering of the dark plot – crazy witch fights, town fires, lake sex, cross-bow shooting, axe-swinging, and even a close encounter with a kind-but-terrifying troll called Edward. This action all culminates in one massive unholy battle at the end of the film, which is by far the best fifteen minutes of the whole thing. Hilariously, a magic book springs up out of nowhere at the final hurdle with a spell to save the day (of course) – but let’s face it, no-one’s gone to see this film for its burning realism.
This film also benefits a lot from 3D – it’s surprisingly gory, and I’m only a little bit ashamed to say that I spent a good amount of time flinching during the fighting scenes. Fists, arrows and bodies are flung out of the screen at you at a rapid pace, and blood spatters at you from every conceivable angle. It’s the first film I’ve really seen that really benefits from a 3D screening and it’s obvious that in making it, a lot of the cinematography was orientated towards a 3D audience. Admittedly the majority of other films I’ve seen in 3D have been Disney films re-released for a 3D generation, but this feels comfortably three-dimensional as opposed to having had its additional angle forced upon it.
Also whilst it’s probably a terribly shallow point to make, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters has both a hot and charismatic cast – with Jeremy Renner making a scruffy, buff, blue-eyed brother to Arterton’s gorgeous and entirely fierce Gretel. It’s also nice to see how Gretel doesn’t play second fiddle to Hansel in the fighting scenes- she’s no damsel in distress, and she’s almost as impressive as Katniss when it comes to shooting arrows at stuff. Even the super-evil Grand Witch Muriel (played by X Men‘s Famke Jenssen) is a hotty when she’s not in scary witchy evil mode, and the characters are charismatic enough to be engaging whilst not having too much to them. You can use as many special effects as you like, but only a good script will make the characters come to life – and this film remarkably manages to get this done with only a little amount of dialogue time.
So in summary: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters looks amazing, is great in 3D, has a hot cast, but is ultimately a bit forgettable. If we’re going for a traditional star rating, I’d give it a solid 3/5. It’s a really entertaining yet entirely unbelievable story that won’t win any Oscars, but will definitely make you simultaneously flinch and smile.
Bonus fun fact: according to her Wikipedia page, Gemma Arterton was born with a sixth finger. She’s also a natural redhead and has a black cat named Salem. OK some of this may be slightly untruthful – click here to find out which witch fact is true.