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Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D: Movie Review

By Darren Bevan

Published: 2:37PM Tuesday January 29, 2013


Cast: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Pihla Viitala, Peter Stormare
Director: Tommy Wirkola

With a tag line "Classic tale, new twist," you'd be expecting something of a reinvention for this fairy tale that everyone's familiar with.

Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton are Hansel and Gretel , who, traumatised by being abandoned in the woods and being suckered by a witch in the Gingerbread house, are now bounty hunters and crossbow wielding killers, determined to rid the world of witches one by one.

15 years later, with the Blood Moon approaching in the town of Augsburg, the town mayor hires the duo to find out why so many children are being kidnapped. Despite the protestations of the local sheriff (Stormare), they set about this mission - only to find a witch more powerful and more evil than they've ever faced before....

And one which could hold a secret to their past.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D  is more Grimm than you could realise (and not in a good way).

Pushed back from March 2012, this latest release is, sadly somewhat of a muddled mess, which sets out to be too many things to too many people and ends up being nothing distinguished.

Which is a shame, because in amongst all the constant in your face 3D (wood, explosions, arrows all come flying towards your face), there is some promise of a decent story. Its opening titles recall illustrations from the middle ages and set the tone of a little tongue in cheek and promising blood and gore aplenty in its killings. Certainly heads explode completely when crushed, smashed and stomped in an array of red blood.

That's what it settles for with scenes leading up to bloody confrontations with witches and scant little story to propel it along. The 3D is lazily applied and goes for the school of firing stuff in your direction and from the screen into your face, which soon grows incredibly tired. It's clearly what Wirkola, who had a hand in the brilliant  Dead Snow, wanted to achieve, because everything's geared towards those showdowns rather than fleshing out what goes between. There's also as much action in the woods - including more hurtling through the air on broomsticks sequences - than there ever was in action on  Endor in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.

Gemma Arterton  is all punkish bravado as Gretel, with  Jeremy Renner  more of a sullen and sulky type as the brother Hansel. One neat twist on the fairy tale sees Hansel having to inject himself every few hours because of the sugar intake from his youth but it's mentioned so often that you're aware very early on that it will become a stumbling block for him. Janssen sneers and gurgles her way through as the baddest witch in town, and there are some hints of menace which sizzle on the screen early on before being squandered in a CGI trickery.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D  proffers up some moments of comedy, but then doesn't have enough one liners to carry it through; and has action and guns aplenty shoehorned in to make it feel a little jarring in places; tonally, while dark, it feels like too much of a mixed bag and I can't help but feel that if those in charge of it had decided what exactly they wanted out of the film, and zeroed in on it, it would have been more successful. Hints of what the film could have been come right at the end with a pre-credits sequence which expose more character, clever effects and sharp writing with great oneliners which lift the dour tone of all that's passed. Had the film incorporated those elements, it would have been a much better outcome.

Unfortunately, the final effect of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D  is like the comedown of a major sugar rush a few hours earlier - moments of joy, mixed with moments of discomfort in the pit of your stomach.