Genre fair in the vein of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters rarely have to exceed generally mid-level expectations to be enjoyed. In fact, most films that strive for the audience and result that this feature film seek can get away with landing short of expectations so long as there is enough for a typically under 25 moviegoer to remind themselves of over all the shortcomings (excellent visual effects or a standout action sequence for example). But when a film stumbles at the starting line and can’t even stand up to properly finish the course you’ve got a certifiable dud – which is precisely the case here. Though popular overseas, the soft $50 million box office haul (against a production budget reportedly in the mid-50s), is proof in this case that whatever the filmmakers were after was apparently beyond the sum of its parts. Even recommending a rental in this case would do little to assuage likely feelings of discontent in future viewers who, if they are like me, tend to be very forgiving of a movies shortfalls.
Distributed By: N/A
Video Resolution and Encode: 1080P/MVC
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
Audio: English 5.1 Dolby TrueHD, Spanish 5.1 DD, French 5.1 DD, Other
Subtitles: English, English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese
Rating: Not Rated, R
Run Time: 1 Hr. 27 Min ®, 1 Hr. 37 Min ®
Package Includes: Blu-ray, DVD, Digital Copy, UltraVioletAmaray Case with slipcase
Disc Type: BD50 (dual layer)
Release Date: 06/11/2013
The Production Rating: 2/5
“Me and my sister... we have a past. We almost died at the hands of a witch. But that past made us stronger. We'd gotten a taste of blood. Witch blood. And we haven't stopped since.”In the middle of the night, young Hansel & Gretel are whisked off into the forest by their father for their protection. Though they do not know from what they are being protected, they are instructed to stay hidden when their father rushes off into the thick of the woods. Alone, the two wander and stumble upon a house made of candy where, once inside, they are trapped by a wicked witch. The witch feeds them candy (so much so that Hansel develops a condition akin to diabetes) in preparation for eating them. But through Gretel’s cunning, the witch is defeated and burned in her own oven. Hansel & Gretel, with their parents disappeared dedicate their lives to ridding the world of the dark forces of witchcraft and evil. Now adults, they find a village devastated by the abduction of multiple children. With the impending ‘blood moon’ and a coven of strong witches with which to contend, Hansel & Gretel are dealing with their most serious threat.
What an enormous disappointment this feature film turns out to be. Norwegian Director Tommy Wirkola surprised and thrilled with his Nazi Zombie horror film Dead Snow, a bloody and entertaining B-movie horror adventure set in a frozen mountainous terrain of a Ski vacation where a group of medical students suffer at the hands of resurrected once-occupying German soldiers from Hitler’s army. That film was efficient and understood exactly what it was. Hansel & Gretel addles between a serious take on the fairytale, an attempt at a witty adult action adventure, and an action film blending period settings with anachronistic dialogue and inventions – three potential tones that through a savvy screenplay could have achieved a playful synergy, but under the weight of a tone deaf script and aimless plotting becomes an insufferable bore.
Gemma Arterton as Gretel and Jeremy Renner as Hansel are given precious little to work with. Both are likeable stars seemingly on the upswing in their careers, but so little can be done with the poorly crafted characters that at times each seem genuinely bored. Renner in particular must tackle awkward expository dialogue (including explaining the silly injections he must take every few hours). As the Grand Witch Muriel, the lovely Famke Janssen delivers perhaps the most enthusiastic of all performances but even she is saddled with too little that makes her evil character standout (though she reportedly took the role to pay off her mortgage). Peripheral characters such as Pihla Viitalaas’ Mina, Peter Stormare as the malignant Sheriff Berringer and Thomas Mann as Ben, the unnecessary third wheel to Hansel & Gretel, each add little to the overall experience.
Where Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters fails most deeply is the meandering, listless script and pervasive dullness painted over every inch of the film - save the closing minutes in the tag. The action is mostly clumsy and murky, characters are able to cover an absurd amount of ground in minutes in order to keep the pace up, and the witch hunters themselves are orchestrated onscreen as mostly incompetent, unskilled novices versus the experienced hunter-killers they are supposed to be. All in all a grave disappointment for what was an enticing idea for a fun, silly film.
Though a disappointment as entertainment, the quality if the 1080p image is anything but, with razor sharp clarity among even the darker moments onscreen that are accompanied by deep blacks and no obvious or noticeable unnecessary tweaking or tinkering. Colors are generally muted by design though the daytime sequences in the village set offer chances for some colors to pop. Details, particularly in close-ups, are very good.
Video Rating: 4.5/5 3D Rating: NA
The lossless Dolby TrueHD 5.1 audio option is good, delivering ably precise surround sound effects and a thunderous booming during action sequences that could wake up the neighbors. The ethereal bias of composer Atli Örvarsson (whose superb score for Babylon A.D. was a great surprise) has been replaced by a coarse bombast devoid of theme and nuance, but it is represented healthily here. Dialogue is issue-free in the center channel. Overall it’s a fine audio that delivers the goods in all the requisite ways.
Audio Rating: 4/5
A brief set of extra features that run shy of thirty minutes in total. Not much to see here and even the chance to show off the practical effects from the Edward character is short changed.
Special Features Rating: 2/5
Reinventing Hansel & Gretel
The Witching Hours
Meeting Edward the Troll
High Definition Copy of the film (Unrated version only)
DVD Copy of the Film (theatrical version only)
Digital Copy of the Film
Production design is sound, as is the costume designs and the creature effect for the Troll Edward that offers a nice dose of practical effects that play out onscreen like a breath of fresh air from all the CGI creature effects dominating films. But these creative elements become fleeting bright spots in an unusually bland outing that quite frankly isn’t worth your time or money. A 3D version of this film has also been released on Blu-ray (not reviewed).
Overall Rating: 2.5/5
Reviewed By: Neil Middlemiss
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