Orphaned by their parents and taking their survivalist witch burning as a career calling, Hansel & Gretel grow up to blow off heads, splatter brains, and sever limbs of witches they so despise. Vehemently acting out at a forest full of witches convening for a Blood Moon convention (of sorts), the duo take a job from a town under siege by their horror genre brethren. The results are absurdly stupendous.
Taking internet cynicism regarding its premise and dangling it front of a 3D screen, Hansel & Gretel’s enormous gusto plants snazzy medieval-styled rifles toward the lens with a wink. Celebratory toward its own internal disposable logic, this fairy tale Ghostbusters packages a steely-eyed duo against the underworld creations in a dazzling pairing. Simple revenge is enough to fuel the tenacious pacing, or until Hansel & Gretel tries to grow a heart. Contrivances and character are not what this escapist pleasure will do right.
Appreciable practical effects lend the film a cinematic soul, a weary, mournful troll built with unseen gadgets and gizmos, creating a brilliant dash of ’80s allure. Place the creature in Willow or Legend and his facade would be charmingly welcome. Same goes for the thorny witches, Famke Janssen plastered in ashen make-up that cracks skin as the devilish dark witch whom the hunters must track.
Hansel & Gretel is a welcoming point A to point B film, direct in storytelling as it seeks excuses to burst open conjurer midsections… gleefully. The film falls into its reality via blood and guts, unsanctioned slaughters that deliver the crux of the tone with point blank rifle blasts. Extreme in its deserving R-rating, H&G runs with its audacious attitude via increasingly vicious witch dispatching sessions.
Hansel’s (Jeremy Renner) affliction of Diabetes is limited in scope or necessity, yet a wildly kooky means of explaining the after effect of his fattening as a young child. Gretel (Gemma Arterton) has her own plot-twitching character arc, while the highlight of it all is a belligerent Sherriff Berringer (Peter Stormare). Berringer rejects the Hunters and seeks his own witchful revenge in the vein of Monty Python, sabotaging the clean cut and sharp-eyed assaults of the leads.
H&G will cluster around its finish after sagging off for ten minutes, delivering the spectacle of deformed, scaly necromancers whipping about on their brooms, while being wiped out by machine gun fire – in addition to other oozing ideologies that catapult the goofy nature to a raucous finale. In a paltry, compact 87-minute frame, the film blitzes to a finish as to not upend its frantic race for violence, smartly aware the conceptual stage will only take the material so far. If only broad clunkers such as Snow White & the Huntsman has a shred of the creative stupidity.
Digitally captured with a generally keen eye for definition, H&G pounces onto Blu-ray with a worthy AVC encode, in both rated and unrated versions. The 3D calls home to its own separate disc, and only comes in the brisker theatrical cut. Opening on a nighttime panic, black levels are brought into work with immediacy, not the richest or densest ever, although still packing weight to punch out depth. On its side is a thick contrast, awfully aggressive and sometimes bleaching objects, yet without enough brightness to shun any sense of flatness.
Fidelity is inviting, capturing the best of facial detail without ever succumbing to processed appearances. Scenes falling into the peak of crispness do so naturally without pulling viewers away from the natural looking photography… except for trolls and houses made of candy. That said, the perseverance of excellent detail carries onto the practical effects, shown here in full light with no attempt to hide the materials. Make-ups and prosthetics are wonderful, and allowed to bathe in contrast.
The Arri Alexa reels in its best, keeping imagery free of distracting digital noise; Paramount’s encode thus keeps it clear of errant compression. However, post production splurges on orange and teal, two things Hansel & Gretel themselves cannot fend off. Night scenes drown in familiar, uncreative hues, while the richness of forest greens is splendid during the day. Flesh tones wrap up an otherwise appealing palette, generally fond of earth tones.
Produced in 3D and partially post-converted, the indecisive process shows. Working through the early scenes of a potential witch hanging, the false and flat depth slims people down, cheapening their dimensionality. Cue up a major action, with villains zipping around on broomsticks and becoming fond of wooden debris fields, H&G will show its 3D muscle. Opening and closing credits are a joy too.
Being predominantly dark in its opening half, the depth could battle 3D wonder but is afforded photography keen on what needs done. Plants are placed carefully toward the front of the frame, or characters positioned to benefit the (sometimes) natural depth. Exploitative shots of shotgun bursts spreading apart in slow motion or arrows sliding across the frame are a joy. Be ready for explosive gore too, scattering internal organs right at the lens. This is not the best, but when it shines, the fun factor is superior to many others.
Rousing and active TrueHD material will prove helpful to the wild scale of this fantasy, active from its opening with lively forest activity that spans the rears and hops into the stereos. Ambiance is noted during runs through the town, bustling with activity in all channels as exposition is dropped.
Action carries a generous sweeping quality, panning extensively as objects or people travel from one part of the 2.35:1 to the other. Bullets are amply placed, and screeching witches pass over every channel. H&G is not aggressive enough to manage any dialogue splits, sticking to the center.
LFE props up an already strengthened audio mix, hammering home the low end during explosions or added oomph to shotgun blasts. Punches too are elevated to ludicrous levels, amplifying a larger than life quality. The score is lost a bit in the chaos, resonating in the subwoofer for dramatic effect and then slinking off. Elements otherwise come together.
Paramount dumps a typical making of onto the disc, titled Reinventing Hansel & Gretel, 15-minutes of idea sources and directing choices. Witching Hour hones in on make-up for nine minutes, while Edward the Troll is well detailed for its short five minute run time.
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