There is a fair amount of Scandinavian talent in Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. This might have something to do with the fact that writer/director Tommy Wirkola is Norwegian. Or maybe it’s easier to get attractive women from Scandinavia to put on grotesque makeup and play characters such as Red Haired Witch and Horned Witch.
Not that it matters.
Mr. Wirkola’s off-Hollywood sensibility suits this reimagining of the Hansel & Gretel fairytale very well. The movie’s prologue shows the story as we remember it (sort of): Hansel & Gretel wander into a house made of candy and are imprisoned by an evil witch who is—we assume—fattening them up for an unpleasant end.
Things didn’t go according to plan for the witch in the fairytale and they don’t turn out any better for her in the beginning of this movie. The kids escape, send her to her fiery death, and the opening credits roll.
During these credits we learn that the adult Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and his sister Gretel (Gemma Arterton) have since grown up into fearsome witch hunters. For a bounty they will end a town’s witch menace. Supernatural pest control if you please.
The styling of this movie takes a little getting used to. First there is all the steampunk-inspired weaponry. Then there is the pacing—not shy when it comes to the violence, but also replete with quiet moments that come as a bit of a surprise in a movie of this nature.
The performances are exactly what one would expect from people in a movie like this. Ms. Arterton sashays through the movie in skintight leather pants that really are a marvel of structural engineering. She is also easily the cooler, more kickass bounty hunter between her brother and herself. Also doing pretty well in her small, and ill-developed role, is Finnish actress Pihla Viitala as Mina, the woman Hansel and Gretel save early in the movie.
The violence in this movie is cartoonish but very graphic. In 3D, stuff really comes flying at you. It even made me duck once.
Final Analysis: The movie is big, messy, and fun. But if you had a witch problem, you’d probably want Hansel & Gretel taking care of it for you.
My Advice: If you’re going to watch it on the big screen, make sure you do so in 3D. It is really quite a lot of fun to watch things go boom and splat the way they do in this movie.