Wednesday 6 November 2013

Review: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

Year: 2013
Director: Tommy Wirkola
Screenplay: Tommy Wirkola
Starring: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Peter Stromare, Famke Janssen

Synopsis is here:

Hansel and Gretel clearly wishes to be a cult comedy. The names Adam McKay and Will Farrell flitter up on the screen during the film’s opening credits, which play on an idea of fairy tale land newspapers. There’s a riff of Shrek in the air as you watch. This doesn't leave easily. Later on when Hansel narrowly avoids an oncoming arrow, we get a moment of bullet time. Shrek played with Matrix effects in what seems to be quite an age. Hansel and Gretel makes it feel like 2001 all over again.

That comes off a little harsh, considering the vast amount of films which have borrowed from the popular effect that The Matrix series help make popular. That said Hansel and Gretel wants to join in with some of the popularity made with po-faced fairy tale revamps such as Snow White and the Huntsman (2012), while trying to make sure that everyone’s forgotten that Terry Gilliam toyed with Grimm tales with mixed results in the tortured Miramax project The Brothers Grimm (2005).

Hansel and Gretel lacks the spiritedness that a director like Gilliam embraces wholeheartedly. His film may not work fully to certain viewers but many can take solace in the offbeat humour he tries to install within his piece as while of the ambition of a few of the ideas.  Tommy Wirkola’s H&G:WH is more about sexing everything up, as is the way with this cycle of fairy tales. See the aforementioned Snow White and the Huntsman.

The off pace Hansel and Gretel has no Monty Python gene and it shows, establishing itself with violence and swearing to try and endear itself to the dream audience of teenagers but perhaps lacking in the askew view that would give it a true cult feel. Yes this faux old timey period has makeshift tasers and defibrillators but these aren't felt has fun gags, more mediocre asides. Meanwhile the conceit of Hansel having diabetes feels more like a forced plot device than anything substantial. Then again that’s no more uncomfortable than Renner’s performance, with his Hansel feeling less like a womaniser, and more like a tepid, reconditioned version of his Hawkeye. Arteron also struggles with her Gretel despite having a lovely corset but little brassiness in her actual character. Although the screenplay is wise enough to make sure that she not just a sex pot with a crossbow that falls in love, but does little to truly highlight the attentiveness that makes her more emotionally in tune to her surroundings. No matter what Hansel mentions, I just didn't get the feeling.

But Hansel and Gretel isn’t about feelings, it’s about heads a popping. And the claret spills in a frustratingly messy style, doing little to show of the impressive monster design of the villains. The film holds a lot of practical effects, but still feels more like a retread of the early 2000’s. Watching this after a kinetic and pulpy found footage feature like Frankenstein’s Army (2013) is a shame, as this film pales in comparison. Then again the same goes for the films modern trappings that lack a decent subversive quality. The f-bombs and lame quips that litter the film can’t hold up to even the weakest parts of Hanna (2011) with revels in mucking around in the same ballpark with better effect.  But Hansel and Gretel is never completely sure of itself, as a fairy tale throwback, or a twisted genre jolly.  Peter Stromare stars in both this and The Brothers Grimm. He seems to be having more fun in 2005.