Sunday, 19 May 2013

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, dir/wr. Tommy Wirkola, st. Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Peter Stormare

The Brothers Grimm's 200-year-old fairy tale Hansel and Gretel gets a retro-futuristic, steampunky revival and a natty subtitle that tells us everything we need to know about the drudgery of the pitch; after escaping the clutches of the wicked witch and her Grand Designs pad as constructed by Heston Blumenthal, siblings Hansel and Gretel (Renner and Arterton) become bounty hunters, travelling from Bavarian town to Bavarian town, dispatching magic-ed hags as they go. Finding themselves in Augsberg (which thanks to the inexplicable American accents, sounds like they're saying 'Oxford'), they happen upon a coven of extra-specially nasty sorts lead by Grand High Sorceress Muriel (Janssen). Reviews for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters were understandably hostile at best, and no wonder. Wirkola's idea of a fresh take is the laziest kind of genre cross-pollination in which people say 'fuck' and 'bitch' a lot while shit blows up around them, and monsters are offed with ingenious and fetishistic weaponry in fountains of blood and gore. There's actually a halfway decent sense of location in the film, and the animatronic troll Edward is lovingly brought to life via puppeteers rather than tired CGI, but as producer Adam McKay helpfully explains, "The idea is, they've grown up and they hunt witches. It's a hybrid sort of old-timey feeling, yet there's pump-action shotguns. Modern technology but in an old style. We heard it and we were just like, 'That's a freakin' franchise! You could make three of those!'" I bet you did. And I bet they will.