It’s hard to believe that in the span of four years, Jeremy Renner went from playing a badass, bomb-disposing soldier in the Oscar-winning film, The Hurt Locker, to prancing around in folksy fairy tale garb in Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. Although at first glance, it may seem like Renner’s moving into a different genre, he’s still wielding a gun in this movie, unable to escape the pigeonholing effect of starring in action thriller hits such as The Avengers and Mission: Impossible – Ghost Protocol. Thus, Renner’s substantial acting abilities are rendered increasingly unimportant, buried under the sounds of explosions, gunfire, and, in his latest movie, witch burning.
Renner stars alongside Gemma Arterton, who looks right at home in this film; having appeared in masterpieces like Clash of the Titans and Prince of Persia: Sands of Time, Gemma’s pretty but ineffectual face lends an appropriate air of vacuousness to Hansel and Gretel’s rather slim storyline.
In the spirit of true Hollywood originality, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters attempts to cash in on the recent trend of remaking classic fairy tales with the addition of modern weaponry and softcore sex scenes. The trailer reveals that the audience has much to look forward to in the script, feeding its viewers cliche lines like “Well that’s new”, “You gotta be kidding me”, and “Hell yeah!”. A note of incestuousness runs throughout with both characters desperately screaming each other’s names at one point. Arterton delivers each line with the precision and enthusiasm of a mortician, and Renner struggles to superimpose his role as Aaron Cross in The Bourne Legacy over Hansel, replacing deadly targets with witches.
This film obviously has a budget – the trailer boasts high-tech weaponry, lush medieval landscaping, and plenty of unnecessary fiery explosions for Hansel and Gretel to walk away from (without looking back at them of course). What’s baffling is why anyone would put any funding into this project in the first place. Parading too much violence to be appropriate for children and too banal a plot to be even mildly interesting to adults, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters can only find its audience in closeted D&D gamers who still live with their mothers and disillusioned tween girls with a pension for storytime and crossbows.
I suppose fans of The Hunger Games might be willing to sit through another film endeavoring to portray a strong (if characterless) female hero, but there are only so many shots of Gretel delivering head-butts and deathly blows that an audience can handle before they realize:
A) They’ve already seen this in some other movie, and
B) Gretel always seems to arrive at the other end of a fight dubiously unmarred.
It’s clear that as long as movies like Snow White and the Huntsmen are successful, the studios will continue to push fairy tale movies starring female heroines down our throat. While I’m not opposed to women being framed in a heroic light, I wonder why it can only happen amongst goblins and princes. Perhaps the producers of Hansel and Gretel could find a way to achieve the same goal in their next film, leaving out the fantasy nonsense and focusing instead on developing a powerful and believable leading lady.