…I am not a horror movie watcher. In fact, I can’t watch them. I have nightmares. Which means I really should have paid attention to the genre of Jeremy Renner’s movie, huh? But nope, I saw one of my favorite actors and decided to see it once I had the money for it.
Let’s start with what the film did right, okay? I’ll… go into the things we did wrong in two parts later. To begin, the bare bones of the story were good. It had the important elements that any good screenplay needs, and it had the potential to work if it had been refined more. In fact… I kinda wish someone would make a refined version of it. THAT would be an awesome movie. It had a decent first act and a strong second act…it just didn’t wrap up well. Another draft could have solved that problem, with someone pointing out the issues.
When it comes to the characters, I liked how sensible the mayor was. He wanted evidence, he hired expert help… he was basically a decent guy, which is a nice change from the overly used corrupted official trope (more on that one later). Our two heroes were well-balanced in the sense that they were both badasses, but they were also not invulnerable (except from magic, but considering how many HITS they take, I don’t know how much that saves them). I cringed whenever one of them took a hit, since it looked like it really hurt. That’s good. I think Hansel’s shirtless scene (and if only it had ended there instead of going into a pointless sex scene *sighs*) showed exactly how vulnerable they still were. Seriously, count the scars. Not all of those are from his most recent brush with death…
The big thing coming into this movie for me though was the relationship between Hansel and Gretel. They were supposed to be siblings, which is a completely different chemistry than most casting directors are used to doing. I don’t know who came first, Jeremy or his co-star Gemma Arterton, but they worked so well together as siblings. I didn’t pick up any vibes that should have felt weird. In fact, I knew I was watching siblings early on. They acted like siblings in the bar, in the forests. Jeremy even had a line that nailed it for me, when he said, “Who the **** is Edward?” He had just the PERFECT tone and facial expression. It was a big brother going, “WHO has been sniffing around MY little sister?” (My brother gets it, I am quite familiar with it.) The layer of diabetes to Hansel was interesting. I especially liked that they didn’t call it diabetes, or call what he had to take for it insulin. They really kept to the world with a problem people deal with now, only for Hansel (and anyone else in the time period), it was a death sentence.
Jeremy’s acting was what drew me into the movie, and really, if it wasn’t for him I would have stopped watching only a few minutes in (like, sight of the first witch, in). I’m glad I stuck it out though. I’ve seen Jeremy as Hawkeye/Clint Barton, and immediately loved him as an actor. My respect for him has only grown after watching this movie. Hawkeye was a little brash, a lot of confident, and full of snark in the bits of movie where he got to act like himself. But in this movie, Hansel was still a bit of brash, but he was a lot of bashful and awkward and… Am I allowed to call him adorable? Because he was, and it made me both giggle and coo at him, which is embarrassing. They are such different characters, I have to respect a guy who can play both of them so easily.
The costuming was also pretty to look at. I liked both Hansel’s and Gretel’s, though the concept of a corset will always be really impractical for any fantasy action heroine ever. YOU HEAR ME COSTUME DESIGNERS? QUIT IT! It doesn’t work practically speaking, and there are other options. Yeesh. But the witches’ make-up was amazing, the ones we got to see, and I loved all the different styles and ways they played with their concept. I especially liked the one who had her hair wrapped over her face, though since it was grey-white I’m a little afraid of what kind of witch she was meant to be…
Some of the weapons were also pretty awesome, not going to lie. I like the idea of the wire-trap, even if it seems sort of silly, and the crossbows were very cool looking. Along with the big, giant guns, I thought the crossbows were the best weapons. They had a steampunk feel to them which felt like the vibe they were going for. Early on, I liked the way they had weapons stored in every nook and cranny. Especially Gretel, who had a whole scene where she really showed how even the crossbows had bits and pieces that were used for fighting. I even liked the trap they set with the little boy. I honestly had NO idea what they were up to. I mean, I knew there was going to be a dummy involved, but I wasn’t certain what it was.
Now for the bad news. I’m going to begin with the three things that a friend of mine was just completely unable to ignore. One was the evil sheriff. Talk about playing every trope in the book to the T. There was no real reason behind his actions, no motivations. And it really seemed like a distraction. You already have a conflict between the witches and the hunters, with all the other crap in between. Was a secondary villain really necessary? The attempted rape was also just awful. I really wish rape would stop being used as a plot device. It really undercuts the real issue that faces society, all parts of it. What’s more, it really only seems to be used to knock down a strong, powerful female character. It honestly churns my stomach.
The last thing my friend had a problem with was the death of Mina at the end. I can’t say I feel as strongly about this one as she did. As a character, she never got beyond “Hansel’s love interest” to me. And maybe I’ve been watching too much Whedon, but I’m never surprised when a love interest is killed anymore. So this one I’m kind of iffy about. I do think her dying is a bit of a cop-out, but it didn’t emotionally bother me as much as it did her.
The rest of the weapons…were just silly. Like, ridiculous silly. I couldn’t get behind the stun gun hand held claw looking thing, for instance, or the idea of a fold-out rifle. And the machine gun? Oh, the machine gun was just stupid. At least it jammed and Mina didn’t know how to reload it. If it had Unlimited Ammo or if she had been able to replace? Oh, I would have Hulked out. No. Just no. I also couldn’t see the point at all to the funky bullet that Ben shot. I mean, I’m sure it has one. I’m just… really confused as to what it is.
The only real hiccup in the acting…was the cussing. I don’t know when it became the norm that if you wanted to make a character badass, they cussed, but… Guys, sometimes it just don’t work. It worked for Hansel, and it worked for the sheriff, and the occasional one from the head witch, I was okay with. But Muriel’s was a little too heavy, and it NEVER sounded right from Gretel. I got the feeling she was the brain and the diplomatic one and despite living rough like she must have over the years, she had this graceful and lady-like air to her that the cussing just…didn’t fit with. At all. It felt disjointed to me.
Now to actual world-building/plot problems. My biggest thing is we are left to assume by the word “white” that the kids’ mama and Mina were supposed to be good. As someone who has done a lot of research into colors and their meanings, let me break THAT happy little bubble for you. White can be evil too. Just because they don’t show the same signs as the others? Means nothing when you’ve shown that a high-power evil witch can do the same thing. No. You have to actually explain these things. I know it takes another what, three minutes, away from the action, but we needed it, just for clarity’s sake. And to harp on the white witch thing some more… Maybe I missed a crucial line in there somewhere, but I thought white witches could do no harm? That’s why the mother got caught. But Mina could use a wand to harm Muriel…? Consistency ain’t your strong suits, honeys…
And this is so minor, but because I’m a nerd, it bugs me. First, the lighting of the Sabbath site. It started off fine. Perfect even. But then the moon turned red (okay so far), and then… the lighting turned red. Noooo. That isn’t how it works. Or at least, not as bright and vibrant as a red they used. I think they should have gone a lot more subtle. And btw… Study your friggin’ moon and sun times. Because on a full moon, the moon sets at 6 a.m., and usually most mornings? The sun won’t rise for another hour. *mutters darkly*
The last real-thing in the movie that irked me to death was Hansel’s voice over monologue. I was with him to a point…and then he started talking about how they knew about the hunters now, they being the witches. That they knew about their powers. Honey, what powers? There was no explanation of powers. Being a good shot isn’t powers. Even if Gretel is a grand white witch or whatever, she isn’t trained. And you have no idea where another one is to train her. Do you mean the spell that your mama cast on you? Being cursed/blessed whatever isn’t having powers! Ugh…
But the thing that killed my friend the most, and I can agree with, is the promises of the production staff, something completely outside of the film itself. We were promised that the story was going to be turned on its head. Well, it got warped, I’ll go that far with it. Like, me turning Rose Weasley into this happy, bubbly Goth with purple hair and a passion for Victorian inspired fashion in black or dark colors, warped. (Yes, I did it for an RP, focus people.) But… it’s the still the same story at its bones. Hansel and Gretel are still the heroes, the witches are still the villains. My friend brought up the point that to turn it on its head like they said, you’d have to make the kids the villains, like in the Fables world.
Final conclusions are…mixed. On one hand, there were some aspects of it I really, really liked. And then there were some aspects of it that were very frustrating to me as a writer and as a watcher. And then there were the parts that just squicked me out. Seriously, I couldn’t watch the ending. I saw the shovel, cussed, and covered my eyes and waited till it was over to look at my computer screen again. I can’t say it’s exactly what I was promised from the production staff…but it was what I expected after watching the trailers. If a little gorier than my tastes run (and I can handle).
There’s a sequel in the works? Oh hell. *hides face*