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Featured 3D Blu-ray / DVD Review: Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters

June 10th, 2013

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was a high concept action film that came out in January. That suggests it was a good idea on paper, but the execution was weak. On the other hand, it did become a surprise hit earning more than $200 million worldwide. Did the studio underestimate what they had? Or did the film thrive merely by being better than the January competition?

The Movie

The film begins when Hansel and Gretel are young kids. Their mother instructs their father to take the two kids into the forest and leave them. There, Hansel and Gretel find a house made of gingerbread, where they are captured by a witch. Fortunately, Gretel is able to free herself and when the witch's magic doesn't work on her, she is able to free Hansel and the pair kill the witch.

We then flash forward many years to the village of Augsburg. Many children have disappeared and Sheriff Berringer believes he has found the witch, Mina, and plans to burn her. Fortunately for Mina, the mayor, Engleman, hired the now adult Hansel and Gretel, who are witch hunters. They quickly deduce Mina is not a witch and let her go, much to the dismay of the crowd, and Sheriff Berringer. The sheriff takes it particularly hard.

The mayor offers Hansel and Gretel a tip on where they might find the missing children. There's a cabin in the woods where no villager will go. There is a witch inside, which the pair quickly kill, but no children. They do find an astrology chart that shows a Blood Moon in the next three days. The Blood Moon is the most unholy night for a witch and it is clear they are planning something big that needs all of these children as a sacrifice. The mayor also introduces them to Jackson, a tracker who knows the woods better than anyone else. They discuss the strange nature of these abductions. The witches have been using a troll, while they are much more selective in what kids they steal.

Meanwhile, Sheriff Berringer sends four trackers of his own into the woods to kill the witch and rescue the children. They do find the head witch, Muriel, who quickly dispatches three of them, and sends back the other as a warning to the town. She then meets up with a pair of other witches, aptly named the Horned Witch and the Red Haired Witch and she reveals her ultimate plan.

... This is obviously a spoiler.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters has a pretty good setup. There is a good movie to be made following Hansel and Gretel after they survived the witch and what happened to them as adults. Going into the movie, I was really hoping it was better than its reviews would indicate. There were some parts of the movie that I did find enjoyable. For instance, I like many of the actors in the movie, including both leads, Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, as well as the two main villains, Peter Stormare and Famke Janssen. There were also some good action scenes here and there and the big twist isn't bad. I even liked some of the anachronisms, like the Taser or the pictures of missing kids on the side of milk jars. This added to the overall comedic tone, and the movie really needed the laughs.

On the down side, everything else was a little weak. The overall plot wasn't that engaging and the film took itself a little too seriously. The setup meant it wasn't going to be a serious action film; in fact, it was originally written to be more of a straight comedy. However, during development, the focus switched to the action. Like I said, I did like some of the action scenes, but they seem to have come at the expense of comedy. It should have been more of cheesy with lots of funny one-liners thrown in. Also, for a film that cost $50 million to make, the special effects are not always as strong as they should be.

The Extras

The only extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray are three making of featurettes with a total running time of 30 minutes. For a film that was a surprise hit, this is more than a little disappointing. The Blu-ray comes with the extended Unrated version, which runs about 10 minutes longer than the theatrical version. It basically has more gory violence, but there are some other edits.

The technical presentation is excellent. The video isn't presentation level quality, but it is up there. The level of details is excellent, as are the colors and the shadows. A lot of the movie takes place in a rich green forest, or in dark poorly lit interiors. The colors and the shadows are of the utmost importance in these scenes and the Blu-ray does an excellent job in both cases. The audio is equally strong with clear dialog and plenty of activity in the surround sound speakers. Action scenes offer plenty of opportunities for dynamic effects and the bass gets a solid workout.

The 3D effects are solid, but not spectacular. It was shot in 3D, so you don't have to worry about dodgy post-production conversion. That said, it doesn't have amazing depth, nor does it have a lot of projection beyond the screen. Again, cheesier would have been better here. However, the 3D doesn't hurt the film's video quality, which is great news. Strangely, only the Theatrical version is available on the 3D portion of the Combo Pack.

The DVD currently costs just $13, while the Blu-ray Combo Pack is $15. That's an amazing price for a first-run release. Hell, there are times when shovelware costs more than that. The 3D Combo Packs costs $23. On the one hand, this is a lot more than the 2D Combo Pack. On the other hand, this is much lower than most 3D releases.

The Verdict

In my opinion, Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters isn't as bad as its Tomatometer Score would indicate, but it isn't good either. If you think the core concept is interesting and want to watch a mindless action set within that world, then this film might be worth the 98 minutes of your time. That's not a very enthusiastic recommendation, but that's as good as you are going to get. There are not a lot of extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray Combo Pack, but the price is hard to beat. The 3D Combo Pack is the most expensive option, but it is still cheap compared to most 3D releases.

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Filed under: Video Review, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, Jeremy Renner, Peter Stormare, Bjorn Sundquist, Rainer Bock, Joanna Kulig, Ingrid Bolso Berdal, Pihla Viitala, Thomas Scharff, Kathrin Kuhnel, Cedric Eich, Alea-Sophia Boudodimos