Sunday, February 10, 2013

Hansel & Gretel Leaves A Bitter Aftertaste

No amount of preparation is fitting for the half-baked, hastily prepared Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. 


ARTH VADER (AV): Famed children's fables and bed-time stories with a morbidly adult twist are big. We've seen this with Alice in Wonderland, Neverland and Snow White & The Huntsman. In a few short weeks we'll even get a glimpse of a re-imagined Jack and The Beanstalk. So our first film review of 2013 brings us yet another enchanted tale, seen through the eyes of an adult with Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. A film that promised a fun, suspended disbelief kind of ride through the tale of two young children who grow up killing and thwarting the crafty designs of witches who pray on young children. Did I miss anything there, Pontificator?

THE PONTIFICATOR (TP): This film is a slight departure from the original story (big surprise) but some basic elements remain. The kids are lost in the woods and come to a house made from cake owned by a witch that want to eat them... but the similarities end there Vader. The parents are never portrayed as evil or misguided like in the book (quite the opposite in fact) and the story ends when the children kill the witch. In the film... this is only the beginning.


AV: An A-list line-up couldn't salvage what was already a luke warm idea from itself. Even the Phoenix–Famke "Jean Grey" Jansen, plays the scary Witch-Queen Muriel, hell-bent on the destruction of Hansel & Gretel. Not the world's most believable acting job for Jansen, but in all fairness... well, I don't need to go there. Jeremy "Bourne 2 B Hawkeye" Renner and his sister on celluloid, Gemma "Clash-of-The-Titans" Artrerton did what they could with a story that was quite possibly doomed before it even began. The film's direction, while competent, left definite room for improvement.

TP: The casting and acting were just fine for me, considering the subject of the film. I wasn’t expecting Oscar performances and the direction the film took was completely what I expected. Jeremy Renner got another chance to shoot things and do stunts, Gemma Arterton showed she also could have been cast in any of the Underworld films, and Femke Janssen put the most into her character...easily stealing the screen from anyone else sharing it. I must admit though, I am now a Pihla Viitala fan (smitten by a witch?).

AV: Okay, so while hardly stellar, the SF/X in H&G:WH were commendable. It's always dangerous, especially for a film like this, to hang it's (pointy) hat on visual effects alone but what we did get as the audience was–at times–compelling. However, in an age of movies like Transformers, Avatar and The Lord of The Rings, it's really hard to be wowed by effects that I am pretty sure I could pull off on my own with a boot-legged copy of Adobe After Effects and a handy cam. Am I being too harsh here, oh Pontificatorious one?

TP: You are indeed oh Dark One. Without a doubt, the highlight of this film were the special effects. I’ll go even further, and say emphatically, that the 3D in this film have been the absolute best to date. I was sitting in the theater...ducking! Simply amazing how far technology has come in such a short time. I will also add that the sound effects really stood out. As I was ducking the thrown axes and shot arrows, I also heard them whistle in the air around me...I even looked back to see what the sound was! (then ducked as it whizzed past me). Honestly...this film had me thinking about a similar experience I had in Disney World, and wondered if the next step in films is olfactory and tactile effects.


AV: Not sure there's much here, but I will give it a shot. The premise actually has merit. That's right , I said it. Just when you thought I was going to torch this film, I pull out a left-fielder like that! No, this movie COULD have been a great sleeper/cult flick. It needed to not take such a serious storytelling route and be waaaayy over the top with effects and have some direction/screenplay chops that were worth a damn. Instead we end up like so many naughty Germanic youngsters, suckered into an oven–as the tale goes–and, you guessed it... we got burned. 

TP: Even in a film like this, I found my mind contemplating certain aspects of it. It’s not a particularly profound film, unless you look profoundly. The image of witches are ugly hags riding broomsticks. Additionally, any fan of the classic Snow White is familiar with a witch changing her appearance. It was interesting to see both these elements in slightly different ways. Random tree branches supplanted the brooms (and this made sense actually) and changing appearances was a power only a master witch could do (also making sense). The idea that Hansel and Gretel were both half witch was a great explanation of why they were able to even challenge the witches physically as well as take so much physical punishment. Also of note was the classic witch's wand...seen here as not a simply stick ala a symphony conductor’s wand...but a makeshift device unique to each witch made of wood and powered by a gem (at least that’s the way it looked to me). Lastly, the whole idea, that wether good or evil, that a witch is somehow connected to nature was in itself we can find both the pleasant and unpleasant everywhere we look within our natural habitat.


AV: In all fairness, there just isn't any substance here to follow up on in this film. As much as I wanted to believe they had Witch-busting Gatling guns in the 12th century, I'm just not buying it. And, I would gather, neither are audiences. Fool me once...

TP: Of course they can make a sequel as the film ended with our witch hunting team finding and killing another witch in their quest to rid the world of witches. The only question is if anyone would want to see it. There isn’t much substance to films like this, and they operate on pure entertainment value. I would be entertained, but would the bottom financial line of the studio agree? Probably not.


Arth Vader rates Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters: While certainly not awful, this movie is just downright not very good. Flat acting, mediocre effects and lack-luster story means this film could wait for a NetFlix/HBO home premiere. Though if you were to miss it altogether, well I wouldn't blame you, dear reader. And with that glowing review, I'm going to hop on my broomstick and warm up three busted blocks for this movie. And as we say in the old country–swing and a miss.

THE PONTIFICATOR Rates Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters: A film like this is so obviously lacking in substance that I don't know why anyone would go see it for anything less than to be entertained by special effects. I knew this going into it, and wasn’t disappointed. The gore factor caught me by surprise, but that’s my fault for not realizing the trend of films like these. On the hunt for a good rating, this film busted six blocks (6).

Hansel & Gretel: Vampire Hunters: 4.5/10 Busted Blocks
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