A Dark Fairytale Disappoints

Do you ever wonder what happens to fairy tale characters after the endings of their stories? “And they all lived happily ever after, the end” is a sweet little wrap-up for small children, but as I have grown older, I have become dissatisfied with this unrealistic sentence. I find myself wondering if Cinderella divorced her Prince Charming after finding him cheating with another, fairer princess, taking half of his money and shacking up with another prince half her age. The perfect world of fairy tales and children’s stories never appealed to me because they do not reflect what the world really is: imperfect and, sometimes, not so happy

So when I saw a preview for Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, a dark and violent extension on the classic Grimm children’s story, I felt compelled by curiosity to see it. Finally, a real-world (well, besides the witches) sequel to a classic fairy tale! There are no breadcrumbs leading the two little German children home to their perfect families and a happy-ever-after in this film.

Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) are abandoned in the woods by their parents, only to wander into the candy-crafted home of a hungry witch hell-bent on devouring the two children. After stuffing Hansel full of enough candy to give him diabetes (literally, his “sugar sickness” is a recurring character flaw throughout the film), the witch is stabbed and burned to death by an angry Gretel. The two children never see their family again, and spend their lives hunting down and killing every witch they can find, due to their mysterious immunity to black magic.

I was excited to see the movie for a number of reasons. First, I love profanity, violence and disturbing plot twists in films. What that says about my psyche, I don’t know, but I cannot turn down watching a nice bloodbath on the silver screen. As for disturbing plot, two innocent little kids who get lost in the woods spend the rest of their lives on a cold-blooded killing spree, using futuristic weapons like tasers and automatic pistols to brutally murder practitioners of the occult? I’m sold.

So I went to Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters expecting an epic action film filled with Tarantino-esque gore. It turned out to be an 88-minute flick with a few f-bombs, some explosions, a moderate amount of blood, and one random, unnecessary exposed breast. I was in between disappointed and far from satisfied, but I cannot say that the film was bad.

What I enjoyed was the compelling introduction showing Hansel and Gretel as children, a copious amount of fighting and gunfights for the first half of the film, and the gorgeous Arterton as Gretel clad in skin-tight clothing, portraying her character with equal parts of sexy and badass. Renner was good as Hansel, but not compelling enough for me to really be invested in his character. The same can be said of many characters, some of whom, like the idiotic Sheriff Beringer (Peter Stormare), were unnecessary to the film entirely.

However, the film was entirely too short, and the story and characters lacked depth. I just could not bring myself to care about what happened. Also, the plot was entirely too predictable. I will not give anything away because the film really is worth seeing, but I was able to figure out multiple major plot points by myself within the first ten minutes of the film, leaving me unsurprised when they were anticlimactically revealed by the film’s main antagonist, Muriel (Famke Janssen).

All in all, I enjoyed Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. It did not live up to my expectations, but I think that is because my expectations were set far too high. Still, it could have been much better if there had just been more. More violence, plot and depth would have helped the film immensely. However, the film is worth seeing for its redeeming qualities. It is definitely a guy film – any dude who likes hot women, moderate violence, and the occasional chuckle-inspiring situational one-liner will enjoy this film.