Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013) – Review

Gemma Arterton would struggle to be in two more opposing films at the moment between this and Song For Marion.  Where that’s fuzzy and ‘feel-good’, this is ass-kicking, witch-decapitating, blood-splattering action.  I surprised myself more than anyone with how much I enjoyed it.

Going into this I had very little in the way of expectations.  The trailer portrayed it as just another piece of soulless, CGI-laden gloop that Hollywood always begins to churn out around this time of year, and it looked awfully just like a relaxing paycheck for Arterton and Renner in between roles they actually want to play.  So when it turned around, slapped me in the face and forgot to be any of that, I was pleasantly surprised.

This is not a spectacular piece of cinema by any stretch of the imagination, and if I’m being completely honest, it has no right to be so much fun.  The plot is entirely throwaway and much of the acting is more wooden than an especially wooden spoon, but that kind of doesn’t matter because it’s not very interested in showing off either.  The crux of the film is the action, and while I know full well that action movies aren’t exempt from decent plots just because they’re action movies (I’m looking at you, Die Hard 5), Hansel & Gretel gives us enough fun and fond memories to compensate for it.  We enjoy spending time in this world with these characters, even if they’re not thoroughly fleshed out or at all complex.  I guess the best way to hammer home the point is this: I’d like to go and see it again, not because it’s one of the best films I’ve seen this year or because I’ll remember for many years to come, but simply because I really enjoyed myself at the time.

The film is a 15 certificate, which also pleasantly surprised me before it even began.  I hadn’t even thought about the certificate beforehand because I just assumed it would be one of those tamed down 12A romps to get more kids in (I’m looking at you, Die Hard 5).  Once again I must stress that the certificate of a film doesn’t have to dictate how good it is, but I can’t deny that the 15 made this a better film that it would have been as a 12A.  The thing’s about hunting witches, and the witches in this are properly evil, deformed monsters (they reminded me of what it felt like to watch The Wizard of Oz or The Witches as a kid), so of course we want to see them getting their asses handed to them, not be tickled into submission like too many of these types of films have done in the past.  Here we get blood sprays, wallops and decapitations – everything you would expect from the profession.  I’m not saying this because I have a twisted mind and get a jolly out of seeing blood and guts, I just think it’s so much more believable with this type of subject matter.

Arterton and Renner are two extremely likable lead characters, and are always watchable screen presences.  Both good actors, they’re pretty much what sold the film for me.  And maybe they are just picking up an easy paycheck, because they’re certainly not stretching their acting muscles with this one, but that doesn’t bother me because they don’t look like they don’t want to be there (I’m looking at you, Die Hard 5).  I really wouldn’t have had much else to be excited about after the trailer, which as you already know, I thought was a bit rubbish.

I stupidly didn’t check to make sure the screening I went to was in 2D, which unsurprisingly it wasn’t, so I ended up seeing it – or apparently “experiencing” it – in IMAX 3D.  Now I don’t have a problem with IMAX and I think it can be very impressive with the right film, but blimey Charlie, the 3D in this is just woeful.  It’s not even that it doesn’t add anything, it’s that it actually worsens the image.  Forgetting about the light loss, what I experienced with this film was an image that doubled on itself whenever I tiled my head even by a fraction.  For some ridiculous reason this so-called “future of cinema” required me to keep my head completely straight at all times, or else risk a duplicated, blurred and train-wrecked image.  I really do grow weary of complaining about 3D, but I just can’t leave it unsaid when it’s done this badly.  It doesn’t work.  It’s over.  Please stop.

It isn’t exactly breaking any boundaries, but this is a surprisingly fun little flick with plenty of bang for your buck.  With the choice of action movies in the cinema at the moment, I’d say this is a fairly safe bet.

★ ★ ★ ☆ ☆

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