Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D Blu-ray Review
A few years ago, Hollywood clearly decided it was far better to recycle or re-mix old stories than to write new ones. It’s actually been occurring for many, many years but less notably than the recent stream of comic book and other features based on stories already told, already written. Let me be clear, I enjoy comic book movies and many recent remakes or re-hashes are actually quite good (I’m looking at you, JJ Abrams’ STAR TREK franchise!). But some of the recent glut doesn’t quite make sense to me… films like JACK AND THE GIANT SLAYER, MIRROR MIRROR, ALICE IN WONDERLAND, RED RIDING HOOD, and finally HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, which recently arrived to Blu-ray and 3D Blu-ray.
Starring Jeremy Renner (Hawkeye from THE AVENGERS) and Gemma Arterton (CASINO ROYALE and CLASH OF THE TITANS) as the dynamic duo, HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS is meant to be a fun new twist on the classic children’s fable. Sadly, it never lives up to the promise that made me crave getting this film on Blu-ray. All of the elements are there: a classic story; some great actors; a reasonably realistic fairy-tale world (thanks to the incredible work of the production team using real sets, prosthetics, and make-up whenever they could); some (though not all) great actors; and a compelling opening sequence.
I bring up the opening sequence of the film because HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS begins just as you would expect, with an interesting retelling of the classic Grimm tale. They establish a world that is ominous, fun, and very foreign in the first few minutes and through the opening credits and it is exciting, everything for which I was hoping. Then young Gretel goes for a cheap laugh with a lame punchline and we quickly realize what we’re going to experience for the rest of the film. This really is a shame, because I really want to see Jeremy Renner carry more films, especially action films, but this one may have ruined his credibility (through no fault of his own).
Gemma Arterton, however… I keep hoping she will emerge as more than just another pretty face. I keep hoping, and she keeps letting me down. Her best showing in a film so far (in my humble opinion) was her quick but flirtatious jaunt with Bond in CASINO ROYALE before almost immediately falling victim to the villain. Since then I don’t mind looking at her, but I could deal without her faux-american accent. The one area where she does succeed is in silence, casual looks and expressions that really sell the relationship. There are some wonderful sibling moments between Hansel and Gretel that wouldn’t have worked without that chemistry; I just wish it had carried over to her speaking role.
There isn’t much to talk about plot-wise, as the story is pretty much given in the title and there isn’t much more to it than that. There are hints of deeper meaning, a depth to the story that Renner, at the very least, could have helped to provide. But in the end the script just isn’t strong enough and instead we settle for lame one-liners that appear with increasing frequency as the movie progresses. This is true of the whole movie in general – where it starts with a nice premise and a universal story, the entire thing devolves into one long jumble of indecipherable action sequences followed by poorly developed story. In the end not even the great Peter Stormare (FARGO) can save the film, though as a Sheriff and righteous human being he is actually considerably scarier than the monsters we see in the film.
To top it off, HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS is full of profanity, which I usually actually like (when it adds something to the story, or makes me laugh), but the delivery is SO POOR it is painful and doesn’t feel right in this historic world. It’s as though they realized they could curse because of the gore, so they added it to everywhere they could. Speaking of the gore, one of the strongest suits of this picture is their use of actual, physical props and space… but where the film falls flat on its face is in the CGI department. I don’t know if it’s because it is on HD, but the CGI really pulls you out of the film. As it stands, there is obviously a market for a film like this and they will make more movies just like this one, but we deserve better than this.
HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS 3D BLU-RAY REVIEW
Sometimes a bad movie can be more fun with good 3D and that’s the case with HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS. The 3D effects aren’t reference quality, but director Tommy Wirkola made use of the 3D with some blood spatter during the action scenes and a few bits of debris flying up here and there. Otherwise, the 3D is adequate and definitely makes the film more entertaining.
HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS BLU-RAY REVIEW
Video: (1080p, 2.40:1 Widescreen) The video is very nicely done, though many of the CGI elements (especially the over-the-top gore) don’t play as well in high def as I thought they might, but the great work on costumes, make-up, and prosthetics looks really great.
Audio: (English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD) The sound on HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS is absolutely top notch. You will feel completely immersed in this world right along side our heroes.
Reinventing Hansel & Gretel (15:41) Director Wirkola, producers, and the cast of HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS discuss how the movie came together. Lots of footage from the film with some behind the scenes moments make this a lot of fun for any fan of the film. The focus is on Wirkola’s specific twist on the story and features a lot of spoilers – do not watch before you see the movie!
The Witching Hours (09:01) This feature contains a TON of spoilers as well, but adds some interesting thoughts and concepts to the design elements of HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS. The make-up/prosthetics in the final scenes are pretty incredible and this one is worth checking out.
Meet Edward the Troll (05:25) The troll who figures prominently into HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS is the central figure in this special feature. He was purposely crafted rather than using CGI and it pays off with realism that I miss in other recent features (yes George [Lucas], I’m talking about you).
The HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS 3D Blu-ray package comes with two Blu-ray discs (the standard HD and a 3D disc), a DVD, an iTunes (or other) compatible digital copy and an UltraViolet digital copy.