"Hansel And Gretel: Witch Hunters" is about the famous children from the German fairy tale recorded by The Brothers Grimm. Only in this story, the famous fairy tale is just the "origin story", as the brother and sister duo grow up to become professional witch hunters.
A plague of witchery swarms around a peaceful community. Large numbers of children are being abducted. It soon becomes clear that the witches of the world have something very big planned, and its up to Hansel and Gretel to stop them.
If that story sounds simplistic, that's because it is. There are no big surprises or character twists. The story is easily the weakest part of the experience. This also isn't a character-driven film, despite some nice touches to the title characters here and there. This flick is all about the mashup of a classic fairy tale with modern gamer-geek sensibilities.
The protagonists are written as though their dialogue and actions are being created at the gaming table, while the unseen gamers controlling them invisibly roll dice and eat cheetos behind the scenes. By contrast, everyone else in the story (we might call them NPCs or "Non-Player Characters") is written as though they fit directly in with the time period of the original fairy tale. (Though not the place. German accents would have been a nice touch.)
If this conjures up memories of previous failed attempts at blending medieval fantasy worlds with modern culture (A Knight's Tale and Dungeons And Dragons come to mind), this time around the blending is much more subtle, and the style of storytelling lends itself to the gimmick well. I was surprised at how nicely it worked and how much I enjoyed the experience as a result.
Dialogue isn't the only modern element brought to the table. The siblings' wardrobe and weaponry feel stylish and modern, despite looking like just MAYBE they POSSIBLY could have been made in the early 1800's.
Visual effects were standard quality. Enjoyable but not ambitious.
Make-up on the witches looked a little like make-up at times, but the pronounced and striking style looked cool despite the trade-off.
I was very happy that they used puppetry and animatronics to create the troll character, who was every bit as expressive as any CG creature I've seen, and looked 100% physically real... because it was.
The action sequences are cool and fun, but because of the emotionally detatched, wise-cracking nature of the heroes, I never felt like they had things too rough.
The theme of witchcraft is obviously central. Without giving too many spoilers, the story presents the idea of there being both "dark witches" and "light witches". Bad AND good.
In another movie, this might raise an eyebrow from me, as the Bible teaches that the practice of witchcraft (or sorcery) is contrary to God's will for our lives. (Galatians 5:19-21) Does a movie with "good witches" support the practice of witchcraft?
I don't think this one does. The version of "witchcraft" presented here is purely fantastical, as I think any modern real witch will tell you. The behaviors referred to as "witchcraft" in this film, and many films like it, are dreamed up by their creators, and bear little resemblence to REAL witchcraft and sorcery.
It's not even clear in this movie that the story takes place on earth, rather than some fantasy world. So suspension of disbelief comes easy, and unless someone is trying to find trouble, they shouldn't find any with the supernatural themes of this movie. (If they do, they probably don't like "The Wizard Of Oz", either.)
All that said, the casual nature of the experience means that it will probably provoke little or no thoughts regarding moral or spiritual issues, even though dim embers of potential for it are present.
The lack of ambition in storytelling and character means that this movie is not a must-see for now. But if you've ever enjoyed playing fantasy RPGs with your buddies, you'll want to give this one a try on home video. It's a fun little ride.
Rated R for strong fantasy horror violence and gore, brief sexuality/nudity and language