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So I mentioned I had thoughts about Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters. And I realize it's a lot more than this movie deserves; the running time is a paltry 88 minutes and that includes credits and things, so it should tell you a lot about what kind of film it is.

But look. I've been in love with Jeremy Renner since SWAT, since his appearance on Angel right before that, where I was like, oh, who's this? And I adore Gemma Arterton; I think I was quite besotted with her in Quantum of Solace and so this casting was perfect for me. When I first heard the idea, I thought, oh, how clever, the two of them turning what happened to them into a cause, makes for a perfect little fairy tale action flick.

If only that were true. These are the kinds of things that make my old film critic raise her ugly head and scream. There really was so much missed potential here. My usual take on about 98% of action movies is that they need anywhere from 20-40 minutes of cutting. Usually in the action sequences. I can't even think of an epic or action movie in the past however many years that didn't need serious cutting, and that includes Avengers, which could have used some serious trimming in the interminable fight scenes, especially that deadening fight in the forest between Tony and Thor. If they'd done that, maybe they wouldn't have had to cut one of the most useful character scenes, where Steve is trying to absorb modern New York, and we would have had at least a vague explanation for his insta-hate for Tony (although we still would have no idea why Tony has insta-hate for Steve). And this movie could have used an extra 20 minutes. I haven't said that about anything in...I don't think I've ever said that.

But these days, studios always choose the FX-heavy, expensive fights over the "slow, boring" character stuff, and then they wonder why people don't respond. The smart thing that Avengers did do was to give us the character introductions piece by piece at the beginning while being framed by some action pieces, so we had something to hang our expectations on. Even that highly coveted teenage boy audience that Hollywood seems to think is the only one that counts needs someone recognizable to root for.

Hansel & Gretel doesn't give us that. The characters are completely undeveloped; in fact, the only thing we know of their history we get in the "clippings" over the opening credits. We never see them decide to become witch hunters, we never hear about how that's affected their lives, we never know their feelings about their calling. The only time we get a scene that's really just the two of them together, it's after she tells him about her dream, and he immediately dismisses her and rolls under the bed. Where are the scenes of, I dunno, tenderness between a brother and a sister who do something terribly dangerous? Where are the moments of them talking about things that have happened in their lives, or recalling events, or just caring for each other? They must love each other in order to be able to stick together and do their jobs, but we have no sense of that, no understanding of what keeps them together in the face of grave danger.

The thing is, I actually enjoyed a lot of the movie on a superficial level. But I kept getting my hopes up when it looked like a character development scene was coming, and then having them dashed. There isn't even time for the two actors to have any chemistry, because they're so often not even onscreen together, which is another really odd choice. A lot's been said about making Gretel the damsel in distress all the time, and that is definitely irritating. But Hansel is also often in distress, yet the two aren't connected to each other in these situations. It's a really, really weird choice. You've got a couple of hot, sexy young actors in leather and carrying fabulous steampunky weapons, yet you constantly keep them away from each other -- even framing them on opposite sides of the screen. Were they worried about the incest/shippy crowd, or something?

The closest anyone comes to having a relationship developed is Edward the troll and Gretel. I've heard a number of people say they want Gretel/Edward fic, and it's obvious why -- they're the only ones who have any moments that develop a relationship, even though he doesn't speak much. They do more with Edward in his few scenes than they do with Hansel, especially when you contrast their attempts at creating a love interest for Hansel in Mina, which comes across more as a creepy non-con situation than anything sexy.

And that also annoyed me -- I thought they were cute, and would have liked to see that explored in some detail: Hansel's inability to believe there were good witches, handling an attraction to one, etc. But instead the whole thing comes across as stalkery, and she is the one who gets nakey in the swimming scene, while the most we get from him is a brief shirtless scene. Do they really not understand how many Renner fangirls are going to the movie solely because of him? Seriously? Are the filmmakers blind, on top of being cretinously sexist? And they do nothing with his sugar sickness -- a point that could have been turned into an interesting character bit (also, it's clearly only important from time to time: when he wakes up in the tree, he obviously hasn't had his shot for a while, so just how is it that he's so perky?). Why is he so reluctant to get it on with Mina -- why does he act befuddled and chaste? Hansel & Gretel should be these rock stars going from town to town, collecting groupies and never wanting for sexual partners, yet all they get is one nerdy fanboy and a woman who is grateful for him saving her life. If you're going to embrace the anachronisms (which I enjoyed), why not go all the way?

Oh, gah. I mean, I know I'm giving this movie waaaay too much thought. But it's the kind of story that would normally be right up my alley, would have made me so happy if someone capable had been behind the writing and directing of this thing. You have two fabulous, pretty hot (in both senses of the word) actors, and you throw them away on fast-cut editing and CGI. I think the end credits were a perfect example of what was wrong here: the first part of the credits lasts maybe 15 seconds, and it's a two-screen, two-column list of the actors and the principles of the crew. No scrolling, just flashes of the names and you can't really read them. Then the rest of the credits sooooo slooooowwwwly scroll by, listing all the stunt doubles, the effects workers, the craft services people...it's interminable, and I sat through the whole thing because I hoped there might be a tag at the end. (There isn't.)

They threw other actors away, too -- the wonderful Famke Janssen is just a stock witch character (and I don't know that I even want to address the issue of ableism/misogyny that has been rightly brought up about how the witches are treated because that's a whole other rant) who loves to run around being evil, no development, and Peter Stormare, who's one of those actors who can be hilariously creative, just gets stuck with the nasty, mean sheriff role, and he's dispatched quickly as an inconvenience. Anyone who's seen him in Prison Break knows how balls to the wall he can get (not to mention those insane VW ads he did back in the day), and it would have been so fun if he'd let loose instead of just being vicious in a generic bad guy way.

I've probably just expended way more energy on writing this than it deserves. But I guess that's what bothers me most -- I had such hopes for it way back when I first heard about it, and while there are a few fun moments in it, and I loved the set dressing and props (and the leather outfits), they made the wrong thing. They made a video game, not a movie, and created two-dimensional devices to move the story along, while neglecting any actual character or relationship development. I weep for the movie it could have been.

Write me some fic and fix it?

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Comments

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belmanoir
Jan. 31st, 2013 09:41 pm (UTC)
Yes! It's the wasted potential that hurt the most. It could have been SO COOL, and it just wasn't. I did actually really like the under-the-bed scene because...it felt like he was her little brother. Like he was really resistant to talking about their past, but he also just CLUNG to her hand. And the scene where they're in their childhood home and he's sort of just excited about "Ooh! It's our beds! It's our toys!" and she's obviously upset. I just got this really clear picture of their lives and their relationship and the ways they do and don't take care of each other. But probably I was reading most of it in, I guess...and I agree, it was just BIZARRE that they were apart for so much of the movie! Why on earth are these your choices? WHY? LOOK AT THE TITLE OF YOUR DAMN MOVIE FFS.
kerithwyn
Feb. 1st, 2013 03:04 pm (UTC)
Not going to catch this until it hits On Demand, but it absolutely sounds like the kind of thing fandom should be all over for the necessary fix-its.
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