A new type of movie – one that hunts sentience: Hansel and Gretel

Note: this will contain spoilers. Look at it this way: I just spared you the pain of watching this movie.

They’ve finally found a cure for brain. Stick your head in a metal bucket and visit Animal’s cage at the back of the Muppet Theatre. Or, should that be impossible, watch Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.

Ye gods it’s loud. Imagine sitting directly in front of an amplifier during a DragonForce concert. Now drop the average IQ so hard it goes backwards in time. The soundtrack isn’t bad, per se, but it’s cranked up to 13 when 11 was already headache-inducing, to the point where I was sitting across the road from a car alarm going off and it was actually easing the pain in my head. I really cannot emphasise enough how much it felt like being in the firing line of a squad of Noise Marines. Or hit with a hammer. Or run over by a truck.

OK, I’ll stop.

The special effects are in the same boat. They’re technically fairly well handled, but still not quite enough to save the movie, and I’m really not sure why it was necessary to apply the gore with a rhino’s foot rather than a paintbrush. There are several plot points – the wire traps, Edward’s defence of Gretel, the Curse of Hunger for Crawling Things – that either exist solely for pointless gore, or needlessly ramp up the brutality of a scene because it’s an “action movie”.

Die Hard is an action movie too, but I don’t recall John McClane making people explode in showers of gore or popping their heads like grapes.

Moving on. The plot has Hansen and Gretel become huge badasses once they had completed their traditional fairytale, only for a simple bounty hunting job to turn out to be a conspiracy to create fireproof witches. (Although “kill it with fire” is described as the only way to make sure a given witch is dead, only a handful of the witches they kill during the movie are actually burned. I think they’re ensuring repeat business.)

There are some really unfortunate things about the plot which only occur to you once the headache dies down. Most notably, it turns out that witches are available in both black and white magic forms. White magic is inherited, with – spoiler – Gretel turning out to be technically a white witch. Assuming both types of witch work vaguely the same way, that means black magic should also be inherited. Leaving aside the question of how someone as hideously deformed as the average black witch is going to have kids, this also kind of leads to some awkward questions involving good and evil being clearly heritable traits. The primary alternative is that white witches are the default and black witches arise from them accepting corruption, at which point we run into the problem that the witches of this movie have no motives. They don’t have a reason for being evil. They’re just Bad Guys who want to do Bad Things so that the heroes can gun them down without remorse. The ritual they’re planning is based on preventing themselves from dying, but if they really want to not be burned at the stake they could, I dunno, use their magic for good and not mess about with deals with the devil? Have I put more thought into this than the filmmakers now? Should I get out more?

As a side note, I’m really starting to get tired of what I’ve decided to call the Will It Blend school of action scenes. This consists of making every fight an incredibly jarring string of one-second patches of footing cut from every different angle and nailed together so tightly that you have very little idea what’s actually happening. It might work in moderation, but applying it as often as H&G does makes the movie disorienting and headache-inducing, and trust me when I say the soundtrack doesn’t need any help in that department.

I award this movie zero brains out of five, and weep for the makeup, special effects and so on expertise that was squandered on it. There were a few scenes that I enjoyed, but fundamentally, it was an exercise in brainless violence mixed with unnerving implications.

– OSM out


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