I know this film came out a while ago but IIIII only just watched it a few days ago, so nyahhh.
I'd watched The Hunger Games: Catching Fire which was a better adaption from the book than I ever could have expected. Yeahhh, they left stuff out, naturally that's going to happen. So with wonder and excitement still in me, which took a few hours off my sleep that night as I tried to fit my new inspirations into an old story like a jigsaw, I decided to watch another film the next night. It was Mortal Instruments: City Of Bones, and it disappointed me in more ways I could possibly explain right now - I'd have to make a new post, and I don't want to make a whole post focussed on dissing somebody's work, so just never mind. If you forget I mentioned it, I'll forget it exists.
Just to be clear, I don't really watch movies because they don't normally meet my expectations. I don't go to the cinema - the last thing I watched in the cinema was probably X-Men: First Class or Thor, whichever was the latest. But last Thursday evening I felt hollow inside and depressed about my future, about whether I was going to be successful, about whether I was working hard only to get no results at the end. So I watched THG: CF, and although it didn't solve the problem, it was a helpful diversion. Well hey, that's why people watch TV, right? (I don't watch TV either, haven't in years. Some people think my life must be disturbingly boring for a 21 year old.)
I was in the mood for another fantasy movie following the disastrous City Of Bones and ended up watching Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. I was cringing even as it started because in my head was leather-clothed X-Men meets Aeon Flux meets Beautiful Creatures meets gothic Red Riding Hood meets Snow White and the Huntsmen and after those thoughts I was no longer sure why I was watching it. The last three I haven't seen, and for the same reason why I averted City Of Bones for so long and tactfully sidestep some fantasy films. I hate when I have a bad feeling about a movie and I'm right. But I'm very glad I persevered with this one because it's an incredible retelling of a story I've known since kiddiehood.
So, I'm just gonna say what I thought about it and how it might help my fantasy writing. This won't be spoiler-free so bewaar.
There's a lot of things that were awesomely good about this movie. There were reasons I had doubts. I know Hansel and Gretel is a German folklore tale, and the X-Men style get-up in the movie poster seemed unsuitable for where and when the film was set. During the movie it didn't seem exceptionally out of place, only a little unusual. I thought, why go out of your way to show how different you are from normal townsfolk with fancy clothes? Another thing that made me frown was the weapons. Gretel has this GIGANTIC crossbow and Hansel this great whopping gun. The gun I can handle, but peering at this crossbow in the movie, I'm thinking, how does one get their hands on a weapon like this?
Now, the good stuff.
First and foremost, the Witches.
The witches were absolutely incredible. Their costumes and overall look was just stunning and very convincing. They certainly don't tone down how horrific they are. They burn in fire and also in the sun, I think; they use the old fashioned wands, these huge gnarly sticks that look a lot more enchanting than the streamlined, pencil-like Harry Potter versions; they also fly on broomsticks but not the type you sweep the floor with, they are LITERALLY a tree branch. O_O I swear. I loved that.
There was also a very interesting decision to include a Grand Witch, which reminded me a lot of Roald Dahl's Witches - isn't that funny? I talked about that in the previous post! This Grand Witch can change her face and is more powerful than the other witches. This role was played by Famke Janssen who played it BRILLIANTLY, as in, she wasn't evil in the way I'm used to seeing it. I dunno, she just gave the role and edge that was so interesting to watch! I'm really happy to say that because I didn't like Jean Grey in the 2000 X-Men movies at all, or the Phoenix in The Last Stand either. ALL of the character portrayals were very flat for that movie but I don't really think that's the fault of the actors or actresses, they just had to work with what they were given. *shrug*
This movie is full to the brim of gore and fast-paced action scenes and I really enjoyed that. Sometimes I really feel for that kick of blood and guts to jolt my mindset, when I'm very depressed. That's why I loved reading the Demonata series by Darren Shan. It's a bizarre thing to say because I would want a peaceful experience in real life! This movie does do that strange thing of Hansel and Gretel getting beat up pretty badly, yet they still get up and fight. I know they're fighters and not ordinary people, but come on guys, the line's gotta be drawn somewhere. Gretel tooks some pretty hard hits.
Oh, the portrayal of Hansel and Gretel were really great, kudos Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton. They had more of a, An Unfortunate Life Has Made Me This Way attitude rather than a I'm So Badass kind of behaviour. Well, they were badass, but that's because of an aggressiveness that came out of bitterness that came out of an unfortunate life that made them that way. Catch ma drift?
In the movie, the evil stepmother was made to be good - in fact a surprising plot twist that not even Hansel and Gretel knew was that she's a White Witch, and not just any but the Grand White Witch. She told Hans and Gret's father to take the kids away because their lives were in danger. Now I've said it, it sounds cliche but during the movie I wasn't expecting that at all. She was burned at the stake by the townsfolk and their father was hanged, which was a really sad scene.
Now we're on the topic of good witches, there is a new character in the story that is saved from being burned, who turns out to be a good witch. It was interesting how they tangle that all up together with her getting into a relationship with Hansel and well. I groaned aloud when she got stabbed at the end because I knew it would cue a dying scene, which have been done to death and beyond particularly in fantasy. I found Mina's dying scene bearable because her last words, "Kill the fucking bitch" or words to that effect, parody the usual "I never told you I love you" thing. But still. Me + dying scenes = ERROR.
However, the twist about Gretel turning out to be a Grand White Witch - yes, this story has plot twists all over the place! That was makes it awesome - I wasn't sure if I liked that too much. It wasn't exactly clear WHY Gretel is a Grand White Witch - did she inherit this from her stepmother-turned mother or was it innate? I don't know why, but it seemed a bit convenient.
But one thing I absolutely LOVED is Hansel's illness, another thing I didn't foresee AT ALL. As you probably know from the classic tale, Hansel and Gretel discover a house made of candy in the woods, which is supposed to lure children-prey like how beautiful vampires lure human-prey. At it turns out, eating the candy made Hansel diabetic so he needs to take insulin shots, cue the moment we knew would crop up when it would leave him vulnerable in the presence of a witch. I wasn't entirely sure if Gretel wasn't affected because she's a white witch or because Hansel ate more. Who knows, man.
Oh yeah, and then there's the fanboy. The Hans and Gret version of Jimmy Olsen, he's their fan, he wants to grow up to be a witch hunter just like them, yada-yada. I liked how they made use of him the movie, although at first I was a bit like "What in the hell...?! This seems so out of place."
There's a sheriff who has the same goal as Hansel and Gretel, ie. rescue the children, but he is such an awful man that you kinda knew something bad was gonna happen to him just for that justice-is-served satisfaction. That almost-rape scene, though, was so awful. Nothing happened, thanks to the troll, but it made me feel sick. You know that taste you get in the back of your throat? Urgh. And THE TROLL!! I loved the troll! Nice to see a fantasy creature I haven't come across too much. So there's a troll called Edward who ends up helping the duo, and I found him really sweet. I don't normally like trolls so that was cool.
All in all, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was WAY better than I was expecting and adapts the original tale very cleverly. As an action-horror, which is what its marketed as, it does its job. But in a fantasy sense, it lays out a lot of the familiar fantasy concepts in a refreshing way. I'll probably watch it again by the end of the week.
Fantasy Food For Thought
This also makes me think about witches and the ways of fleshing out this overdone fantasy character type. It's interesting for me to remember that I only have one story about witches, and it's not about the Classic Witch but about the Modern Witch, as in the Charmed or Hex style witch. As much as I like the story, which I tagged Contractarianism, I do actually prefer Classic Witches because their culture is more interesting to me, especially if those classic witches are Evil Witches with an animalistic nature. What can I say, I like animals.
Ashana Lian .