In theory, fairy tale movies always seem to be a good ideal. But for whatever reason, Hollywood keeps overestimating America’s proclivity to embrace a reimagined look at a classic childhood story. A lot of the film industry’s fairy tale ventures had the makings of hits: A Snow White picture with super-celebrity Kristen Stewart and the beloved thespian Charlize Theron at the center? A Red Riding Hood movie with rising star Amanda Seyfried in the title role? An all-encompassing Grimm Brothers project featuring Matt Damon and Nicolas Cage? You can’t blame the studios for trying… this sort of cherished source material, teamed with the names on board, should have predicted greater success stories. But the newest attempt at a fairy tale flick, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, doesn’t even have that going for it.
People fondly remember the likes of Snow White, Little Red Riding Hood, Jack and the Beanstalk, and Cinderella. But honestly, nobody ever gave a damn about Hansel and Gretel. That was one of those stories you’d settle on hearing after you had run out of the good ones. The sort of story you only really knew about because of its parodies on Loony Tunes and Garfield and Friends. The sort of story whose plot we can barely remember beyond the basic “Two kids go into a witch’s candy house” setup — what next? Do they throw her in the oven? Do they escape? Is there a woodsman hero? Who remembers…
And that’s kind of what Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters feels like. Previous and developing projects like Snow White and the Huntsman, Mirror Mirror, Red Riding Hood, Maleficent, Jack the Giant Killer, and others have lain claim to more interesting tales for the adapting. So the tale of two German youths with a craving for sweets has been nabbed for transformation into a high-stakes action-thriller fantasy, with in-everything-now Jeremy Renner and the little-known Gemma Arteron as the grownup title characters.
It’s not just the concept that raises questions here, it’s the execution. In the new trailer from Apple, Hansel and Gretel, lifelong witch hunters after the traumatic turn of events that enveloped them as children, come to face off against a whole new threat. Something, as the trailer seems to suggest, that is beyond the likes of mere witchkind. So, if the main plot of the story does face Hansel and Gretel off against something that is not actually a witch, why exactly is this a movie about Hansel and Gretel?
That can be rationalized: maybe it’s a superwitch. That satisfies both realms. Sure, fine. Superwitch. That’s hardly the biggest flaw here; what was originally most interesting about Hansel and Gretel was the victory of children over a tyrannical force. Two feeble youngsters managed to outwit and outdo a malicious and mystical cannibal with nothing but their own devices… unless, of course, there was a woodsman, but I’m fairly certain there wasn’t. Now, Hansel and Gretel are all grown up. And fully armed. Sure, there’s the factor of hormonal aesthetics lent to the casting of Renner and Arteron as witch hunters. But the charm of the fairy tale’s impish heroism is sacrificed for big screen flash.
But all that is also quite forgivable. When you make a movie, you have to consider the medium. In this age of highly visual films, Renner and Arteron blasting and shooting and headbutting does indeed seem like a clearer triumph than two kids Home Alone-ing a woodland witch. The real problem comes at the 1:40 minute mark, when Hansel (Renner) fearfully proclaims, “They have my sister,” followed by a determined, “Gretel!”
Why, in a movie about two lifelong witch hunters, is it necessary that the female be kidnapped and the male make it his mission to rescue her? Or if this is not exactly how it plays out in the movie, then why is it advertised as such in the trailer? Why can’t we be expected to believe that Gretel is equal the hero that Hansel is? Beyond all other possible flaws in the new Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters trailer exists this one. It’s called Hansel and Gretel. We’re already going into this accepting them as a partnership. Why does Hansel have to outshine Gretel as the hero?
Check out the new trailer, and leave your thoughts on the story and its execution below.
[Photo Credit: Paramount Pictures]