Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D (2013) Germany/US
Here's a new word to add to the new made-up words of the film industry to describe the crap being churned out at an alarming rate: mockbuster. This is of course a play on the word blockbuster and is mainly used by movie companies who see popular movies and immediately knock off their own copy. One main source of those kinds of movies is a company called The Asylum.
I'm not saying all their movies are crap, I have found a watchable movie or two, but mockbusters have made them some serious money. Okay, maybe not a ton, but some. Their version: Hansel & Gretel. Okay, not inventive but their catchphrase "A Classic Tale: Horrifyingly Real" is pushing it quite a bit. Real? The Brothers Grimm are twisting in their graves. And further down the movie evolutionary chain we've got Hansel & Gretel Get Baked. I don't think I have to explain that title, do I? Oh, and it's from the makers of Twilight - hey, where are you going? Get back here you cowards!
But we'll just talk about the witch hunters. You have the option of the 87 minute theater version, or the uncut 98 minute version that's supposed to have scenes "too intense" for the theater crowd. I saw both. My opinion is that there's a longer version so they can sell Blu-rays 'cause there's really no such thing as 'intense' CGI and that's what most of the effects were.
Now I didn't watch the Avengers or any superhero movie made in the last few years (okay, okay I finally watched The Watchmen and it was awful) so although Jeremy Renner looked vaguely familiar to me, I couldn't place him so I looked around. Oh, he was Hawkeye. 'Kay. Apparently he was also in the Avatar crushing movie monster The Hurt Locker (didn't see either one). 'Kay. Gretel was played by Gemma Aterton who can be seen in Clash of the Titans or Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. Or not.
So. We have what is supposed to be the BLOCKBUSTER movie version here, the one so successful they're already making (if they're not already done) a sequel to it. How does it hold up? You know what I'm going to say about it, don't you?
Even if I put aside all the anachronistic hardware the brother and sister team wield through the movie, the taking of the original tale and screwing it all to high heaven, and the (sorry guys) not very enthusiastic performance of the characters, this still wouldn't be a very good movie. Not a BAD bad movie mind you, just not as good as I was hoping.
We start with the story - daddy takes the kids out into the woods at the bidding of his wife and tells them to get lost. Okay, he doesn't do that, but leaves them and they DO get lost - until they find that famous candy house. After being there long enough to give Hansel the 'sugar sickness' for the rest of his life (their word for diabetes I guess) they overpower the witch and... well, this part everybody knows. Hansel says that they learned there's only one thing to do with a witch - burn their ass. Cute.
The movie is a continuation of their life story. Woof. What can you say about the adult life of two children who kill for a living? They keep killing, they keep collecting the money. That's... about it. But since this is the BLOCKBUSTER version of the story (for 2013 anyway) they've got to shove a whole bunch more plot 'cause they've got lots of time to kill (sorry). So how out-of-time was this anyway? Well...
The Brothers Grimm (why they say it backwards I don't know) were Germans who grew in poverty but still managed to get an education. Later in life they became fascinated by the many folk tales of German and Scandinavian origin and decided to put them to paper. This was somewhere in the 1800s but the stories were much, much older. These weren't bedtime stories you told your kids to be nice. They were often violent, cruel tales that were more like a threat of punishment of some kind to children who misbehaved - soon to be sanitized by the likes of people such as the good folk of Disney.
So let's talk about the anachronistic (not belonging to this time period) stuff. First, Hansel and Gretel look like Neo and Trinity from The Matrix. Both are dressed in black leather outfits (metal rivets and all) with Hansel wearing a full length black leather coat. Hmm, maybe he was a Neo/Blade mix and she was a Trinity/Emma Peel mix. He certainly LOOKED like Neo when he bent over backwards to dodge an arrow - that was a pretty obvious ripoff and stupid besides.
Their weapons are patently ridiculous - if you could even find that much metal material to make weapons that haven't been invented yet, would you then meticulously carve patterns into them? I mean hey, seeing a Gatling gun take down flying witches was funny but c'mon (done by 'good witch' and beautiful Finnish actress Pihla Viitala). And giving Hansel diabetes? Really? The concept of the pancreas creating insulin to regulate sugar levels wasn't even discovered until 1869 and it was many years after that before it was synthesized for human use. What the hell is he injecting into himself? Fairy juice? And the syringe? Maybe if this was after the 1850s or so.
One more then I'll shut up - the phonograph. The player may have been around, okay, but it should have played a wax cylinder that looks like a scroll - not a flat round thing that looks like your grandparents 78's. There's more but I promised to shut up.
I had to laugh though as they travel through this Bavarian village as they offer the residents of the town their services as many children had gone missing. No, not about that part - the part where they had quarts of milk in bottles with 'missing children' posters on them. Pffft.
Famke Janssen is always a welcome sight and was good as the head witch Muriel. I wish she'd been in more of the movie, it would have been more interesting and more fun. So H&G are determined to wipe out all witches. In a silly attempt to smush subplots into that, we've got a big ceremony by the witches coming up that will make them impervious to fire.
Because even though H&G drag around an army's worth of weapons and ammo, the sure thing that kills them is fire. Which is funny 'cause in the movie they get shot, beheaded, cut up with wire, heads bashed in... I would have concentrated on body armor instead of worrying about fire but that's just me.
Oh yeah, the other subplot. According to the original story (there's about a thousand versions) H&G's mom and dad don't wanna do it, but they're starving so they make sure their kids are lost in the forest. Later it becomes a father and their stepmother who wanted him to get rid of them so they all wouldn't starve. Putting sex over love (Why else would he do it?) he leads the kids waaay out and leaves them. In most versions it takes a couple of times before they are really lost.
They find the witch's house made of candy... from here it goes pretty much as you've read it. The ending varies a bit. This borrows from even older tales - sometimes it's a giant that's outwitted by the kids, sometimes since the stepmother is used it is suggested that she and the witch are the same person, etc.
This one presents it to you like a big sugary cupcake with a foot of frosting on top. See, H&G's mom and dad had to hide the kids to protect them. Mom was a white (read good) witch, a powerful one, but one who could never hurt a human being. The townspeople are perfectly capable however. While the children wander lost, the mother is burned at the stake, their father hanged.
As adults finding their old home they also find their mother's secret lair (apparently all witches have to have one) and a book of spells against black magic. How convenient. How... dumb. So that's why H&G are immune to spells and curses - they're part magic themselves. Uh huh. With the help of a white (again, white apparently equals 'good') witch Mina they find a spell to 'bless' their weapons and ammo and go to kick some serious witch ass.
If this is the 'too violent' part - c'mon guys. While some of the effects and gore are decent before this (an ogre stomping a guy's head into spaghetti sauce was pretty good) this is so CGI'd it was almost comical. After some go splat and some go poof and some just... go, H&G try to find Muriel (Famke Janssen, don't forget her...) and they end up at... say it with me.... SAAAAAAY IT.... the original candy house they were trapped in so long ago. Of course sugar doesn't hold too well and it looks icky now but could there be a bigger, more obvious plot device and place for a final battle? The answer is NO by the way.
A fight to the death ensues. It doesn't last long. H&G get Muriel with a shovel (all that fancy equipment and they use a shovel... sigh) and pin her down. Hansel holds the shovel on her throat. Gretel uses her weight on it to behead the witch. Hansel grabs the head and throws it in the oven. Uh huh.
Our last scene is of H&G and their new friends Edward (the troll) and Ben, a fan and future witch hunter as they travel around killing more witches and getting ready for H&G 2 no doubt...