Hansel & Gretel, Witch Hunters (2013) - Grimm's Fairytale Reimagined

Friday, November 1, 2013

Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters

Dark, modernized spins on fairytales is one of Hollywood’s newest obsessions. This re-tooling of an old children’s classic is the latest script to fall into the hands of filmmakers.

As children, young Hansel and Gretel were led into the woods by their father… and left there. That dark night alone they came upon a house made entirely of sweets and inside a terrifying witch who planned on baking the children into one of her concoctions. Turns out, the siblings were fighters and instead of being defeated, they turned the tables and escaped her clutches. That taste of witch blood has stayed with them and as adults they are now widely heralded as Witch Hunters.

On this particular day, Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are about to save a woman accused of practicing witchcraft – the townspeople are desperate to lay blame to anyone who seems mysterious since several of their children have gone missing. This is where Hansel and Gretel work best and at the bequest of the mayor, they begin hunting the witch, Murial (Famke Janssen) who has kidnapped their children.

This fight turns out to be harder than anyone expected when it’s revealed that Gretel is actually a target and in order to carry out her scheme, Murial needs one more child. This puts Hansel on a quest to find his sister… the hunt is just beginning. 

Me and my sister... we have a past. We almost died at the hands of a witch. But that past made us stronger. - Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters
It’s been jarring to experience so many iconic fairytales as “dark.” It wasn’t until the movie Brothers Grimm came out which led to some reading how revealing these stories in their original form are. They aren’t the happy-go-lucky childhood fables Disney would have us believe wrapped in animated, bright, musical packages. Ever since the loose biopic about the Grimm Brothers, I’ve also seen Red Riding Hood, so it was no surprise that I’d be curious about this new production. To be honest, I think I’d psyched myself up for the movie not meeting high expectations so it was a happy coincidence to discover that this was, in fact a thrilling good time!

FILM REVIEW | The Huntsman: Winter's War (2016)

Hansel and Gretel

So much about this film is mismatched given that it pulls from modern culture yet maintaining a period piece concept. Somehow it works – instead of being “bothered” by these elements, for example seeing a face on a milk jug or fitting the titular characters as a kind of bounty hunters, it seemed suitable and was instead a clever solution for the script. Even though the script may be too “graphic” for some viewers, in comparison to the original story this retooling does seem to draw from that only taking the legend one step further by aging (as adults) its protagonists. I’ve met this brother-sister duo in television shows, various other television programs and even a form of them in books (Bewitching), however I think I can honestly say I’ve never liked them so well as I did as Renner and Arterton played them. The two of them are great together; they’ve got a deeper chemistry as siblings than most actors play their characters and it’s refreshing to experience. Renner has established himself as leading man material in various action pictures and again he’s proved he has good screen charisma and it was nice to see Gemma (Lost in Austen) in something again.

In some sense this movie is a bit macabre with some “dark magic” elements and I have to confess that was part of its attraction. The film never fully loses itself to the darker elements – the evil is the sorceress who hunt the innocent which is counteracted by the good to match it and we learn that not all who have magic use it wickedly – because it throws in some lighthearted humor (in fact I would argue that Red Riding Hood is gloomier). Filmmakers also put together a fantastic full-on atmospheric film – from the creepy forest to the villages and “cool” weaponry, the movie sparkles not just in its characters, also the settings. Another incentive is this being contained to a mere 80-some minutes which is nice since it never seems to suffer from pacing issues; its final scene teases the possibility of a sequel however I’m not holding my breath. Ultimately, Hansel & Gretel is decent and I’ll be apt to rewatch. It’s fun, exciting and sometimes a little bit creepy – none of which detracted from the film, only added to it. Sadly, it’s too full of content to recommend, however had it toned that down, this steampunk-esque piece of film work could have been superior. This is one personification of Hansel and Gretel I wouldn’t want to mess with – or meet in a dark forest! 

CONTENT: Hansel & Gretel is rated R because of its fantasy violence and profanity. I watched this with the Clearplay player so most of this was cut out, however if you see it unedited you’ll encounter various forms of killing witches – cutting off their heads, using fire or shooting arrows through them [usually with bloody, “graphic” results]. Both Hansel and Gretel are beat up badly at various points – they are tossed against walls, punched, etc. Witches transform from beautiful to ugly [frightening] in the blink of an eye – they kidnap and plan on killing children. The profanity is heavy in spots including unfortunate, multiple uses of the F-word [all of which are cut in edited form], and other minor profanities like h*ll, da*n, etc. There are some minor sexual innuendoes – and we see a shot of a naked couple swimming [there are shots of her from the side and front, waist up].


  1. I saw the trailer for this one when I watched The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in theaters last December. (Can you believe it's almost time for The Desolation of Smaug?! Oh wait, you're not a Tolkien fan, are you?) I thought it looked very gross, and I was only interested in it because of Jeremy Renner, who I'd seen as Hawkeye in The Avengers, which, of course, I very much liked. I can't say I'll ever be watching this movie--but thanks for the review!

    1. If you see it unedited, it is a bit... bloody, Hannah. (It's sad, really, since it's a fun story.) I am the first to admit that. However with ClearPlay, you rarely see anything bad and that made the film enjoyable - plus like you, I'm a big fan of Jeremy Renner. ;)

      (...and The Avengers!? Love those dudes and lady.)

      Tolkien isn't really my thing, no. However I have lots of friends and family members who love the 'Rings.' My dad watched the trilogy way back when, however I never did see it. Just the same, it's cool that there are so many fans for these movies as I know they have a LOT of symbolism and wonderful points of Christianity. Glad you are excited about the sequel; it's always exciting when another part of ones fandom is released! :)

  2. I freaking LOVE this movie. It's SO FUN.

    You really should try out Middle-earth for yourself someday.

    1. Me, too, Charity! SO fun. My mom even liked it reasonably well. Which is... weird. ;)

      I've heard so much good about Middle-earth, I just keep thinking it's not my "thing" (or the films I lump into that genre aren't), however I continue to prove myself wrong about the movies I like, so maybe...

  3. This is one I REALLY want to see. I love Renner and Gemma. However, I go back and forth when it comes to the violence and language. *sigh* If only my family had ClearPlay.... Glad you liked it! Maybe I'll skim PluggedIn's review so I know where to skip. ;D

    1. Good idea, Rosie! PluggedIn offers a VERY extensive, awesome service.

      Hope if/when you watch the film, you enjoy. It is hard to balance the good against the bad but without all the R-rated content, this one is really fun. :)

      ...and I'm with you! I love these two actors - and they are fab on-screen together.

  4. Replies
    1. For a fantasy/adventure movie, this one was fab fun, Juju. :)


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