There’s been some conceptual skepticism about “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D,” but it doesn’t make sense: if there was ever a fairy tale sequel that was meant to be made as a blood-and-guts action adventure, it’s Hansel and Gretel. After all, the Brothers Grimm classic isn’t about raven-haired princesses and sweet woodland creatures, it’s about abandoned children and the witch who wants to eat them.
What’s surprising then isn’t the gore of “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D,” it’s the humor. There aren’t a lot of laughs in the fairy tale, but “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D” is as funny (Will Ferrell is among the producers) as it is bloody, and it’s really bloody (it’s extremely violent, and this is an element that’s both a matter of taste and requiring parental awareness for those with children wanting to see this).
“Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters 3D” picks up 15 years after the fairy tale left off. Brother-and-sister vigilante team Hansel and Gretel escaped the murderous witch back when they were kids, but they’re grown-ups now, and they’re pissed. Equal partners in the family bounty hunting business, Hansel and Gretel are on a mission to hunt (and blow up, behead, splatter, slice and ignite) witches.
There’s more to the story, but it’s irrelevant; one of the best things about Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters 3D is that it doesn’t aspire to be anything it’s not. It’s not a plot-driven movie — it’s a gloriously pulpy, tongue in cheek horror action fantasy — and it’s a blast… if this is your taste.
Gemma Arterton is the perfect Gretel — she’s a stunner of a badass – and Jeremy Renner is a relentless, smoking hot Hansel. Famke Jannsen, who plays Muriel, the most evil of the evil witches, is righteously dastardly, and the film’s director and co-writer, Tommy Wirkola, is the movie’s throbbing, grisly heart.
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At a press junket at the Four Seasons in Beverly Hills last week, we sat down with Gemma, Jeremy, Famke and Tommy to talk about the film.
Why Hansel and Gretel? Why’d you want to do this film? Do you have memories of the story from when you were growing up?
Tommy: I had this cassette tape of Hansel and Gretel that I listened to to death. It’s so twisted and dark and scary, and it’s a great first act for a film. If this happened as children, what would it do to them in their grown-up lives? For me, that line of thought is ‘They should be witch hunters…that makes sense.’ People ask why (the film) is R-rated, and it’s because the fairy tale is.”
Jeremy: “(I wanted to do this film because of) the world…the fantasy of it. I wanted to go have some fun.”
Famke: “I had a lot of memories of the fairy tale, but I don’t think ultimately that was the deciding factor. There were a couple of reasons (I did the film). I really love Jeremy — I’d just watched him in The Hurt Locker — and I thought ‘what an incredible performance, what a great screen presence.’ I also thought that it was an interesting twist on the traditional fairy tale I’d grown up reading. Finally, there was the very simple fact that I needed to get back to work — I’d written and directed my first feature as a filmmaker and as a result I didn’t end up working as an actress for three years. I needed the money and I needed to get back to work. I missed acting and this was the first thing that came about, and it seemed like the perfect match. “
Tommy, how close is the film to your original vision of it?
Tommy: “It’s very close, actually. It’s pretty much the script I wrote, although of course there are some things that are left out here and there. It’s always about how far you go with the comedy and how far you go with the gore, but we found the right balance.”
People were laughing throughout the movie, even in the bloodiest scenes. My favorite line was in the beginning, when Hansel and Gretel are first on screen, and Gemma says “My name is Gretel, and this is my brother Hansel.” Is that the kind of response you expected? People were just cracking up.
Jeremy: “You never know. Every showing of any movie, to me, is always different…but that’s great. I’m excited to see it with an audience.”
Gemma: “We want them to be surprised, but it makes me laugh that they found that funny. I guess it’s because we did the movie and we were the characters.”
Tommy: “I’ve seen the movie with a crowd a few times, and sometimes you get a reaction to that. It’s Hansel and Gretel — it’s great seeing Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton saying that. It fits the tone of the movie. You’re supposed to laugh and have fun.”
Famke: “I think humor is really important with a film like this — it has a sort of Tarantino-esque feeling to it.”
Tommy: “I love the old Peter Jackson and Sam Raimi films, where they mix extreme things with their own quirky sense of humor. When it works, it’s a fun combination.”
What are your favorite scenes in Hansel and Gretel Witch Hunters 3D?
Tommy: “I like the quiet moments with Hansel and Gretel, because there’s not that many of them, and it makes you care about the characters. I also like the big Witch’s Sabbath, where we have all the different witches coming together — it’s fun coming up with the witches and designing them. If you make the witches horrible enough you can do anything to them and people will just cheer you on. I also like the last fight of the film — all of the fancy stuff is put away, and it’s all fists and fury and pure energy.”
Famke: “I think a lot of the stuff between Jeremy and Jemma is great; I really love the two of them together. They’re a great duo – I think Jemma is fantastic and kick ass and great. With cutting and everything it wasn’t exactly what we shot, but in my own scene I really liked addressing the big crowd of witches. I felt like I hit my stride in understanding Muriel and who she was; how much she loved being a part of it, in the way a rock star loves being in front of an audience.”
Jeremy: “I just liked working every day…there’s no particular scene. “
Gemma: “Yeah. We had such a riot making this movie. We had a great crew and a great cast and everyone was just having so much fun. No egos or anything like that. We were just all together, and we all had to throw ourselves into it. It’s that type of movie.”
*The opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Comcast.