Do you ever see a movie trailer and hang your head in shame saying to yourself “dear god who decided to let this one slip through”? For the last few months every time one of these trailers comes up I've been saying exactly that. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is what you might call a severe remodeling of a traditional fairy tale story. The German story that the movie is loosely based on tells of a sister and brother who are tricked by a witch who lives in a house made of candy and has an appetite for cooked kiddies. Hansel and Gretel are imprisoned while the evil witch plans how best to bake them as her stove warms to proper temperature.
At the last moment before the oven is ready the two siblings push their captor into her own oven after escaping their bonds, or so the story goes. An alternate reality where the pair of gullible children grow up to be leather-clad witch-hunters is not exactly the most widely accepted prologue.
The Hollywood machinery has seen fit to morph this fairy tale fantasy into a modern interpretation where Hansel (Jeremy Renner) and Gretel (Gemma Arterton) arm themselves with shotguns, crossbows, and other gadgets to hunt witches in a never-ending vendetta. If all this sounds a bit cheesy remind yourself that it’s produced by the likes of Will Ferrell, and Adam McKay who hearken back to TV sketch comedies like SNL and movies like Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy. Each of the three trailers released so far reveals a comedic undertone and numerous scenes with gag-violence, modern slang, misogynism, and physical comedy. A serious and thoughtful adaptation this is not. On the other hand if you like anachronistic weapons, foul language, decapitations, blood, barf, fecal matter and pratfalls then this might be your type of fairy tale.
Despite the recuts and restricted trailers (shown below) that have come out in recent months I still think this is the most effective trailer. It is simple and to-the-point without relying on too many gimmicks or giving too much of the film away. You can still glean quite a few hints from the cuts that essentially spoil the plot of the movie. For instance you see the main witch Muriel (Famke Janssen) seems to have a thing for Hansel and Gretel that either points to her being their original candy-captor or even their long lost mother. Also hidden in the trailer are allusions to children being stolen from towns for nefarious purposes, then a few seconds later we get to see eggs which no-doubt hold the kidnapped children in a state of “transformation”.
Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters looks like a poorly adapted movie. Wait can I say it was adapted? The source is a scant dozen sentence rhyme. Either way the plot of the film has Hansel and Gretel randomly hunting witches until local towns see an increase in child abductions. A sinister plan is brewing (excuse the pun) that neither of the siblings had seen coming. Now they must face their ultimate fears as they take on a new and improve enemy in the form of Muriel whose plan includes designs for at least one of the hunters. In the process Hansel seems to fall in love with a good-natured witch who he shares a spicy love scene with in a hot spring. Later the two siblings and their newly found good-witch must assault the stronghold where the children are kept in what is surely the climax of the film.
There’s a lot of posturing, posing and gun slinging in this trailer and this shows where the emphasis in the plot will be. Supposedly there will be plenty of ammunition spent as Hansel and Gretel hunt various witches during the course of the movie.
The restricted trailers up the ante with increased amounts of blood and gore but cut out the action and rhythmic with music that make the announcement trailer so likable. In this version Hansel and Gretel tell us about their trade as witch hunters for the first 30 seconds explaining that the evil sorceresses steal children, eat them and are generally bad news. Later Hansel sums it all up with the statement that they “Kill witches; What do you do?”. Well Hansel apparently I pay hard earned money to see Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton hunt Hot Topic rejects with automatic weapons. Not my idea of a weekend afternoon well-spent.
There’s a bit more exposition here telling of witches who've taken kids deep into the forest for an evil scheme and that they also use trolls to steal those children in raids on unsuspecting villages. This trailer actually shows the troll loading a kid into a backpack-like cage and we get a nifty shot of the troll’s face. The lumbering beast kind of looks like Will Ferrell so I’m guessing that Will voices at least one character in the movie, if not a CG character like the troll maybe he has a cameo instead.
This trailer has an important clip that shows Hansel’s suspicion that they aren't the hunters come true as Gretel is stolen by one of Muriel’s lackeys. Now Hansel and his new friend are left to fight the horde of goths on their own and must seemingly rescue Gretel in the process. Ohh and there’s a minigun added in for good measure at the end. Every German fairy tale has a fully automatic weapon hidden in it somewhere right?
At a minute and 22 seconds long this is the shortest trailer of the entire bunch but seems to pack all of the story hints of the previous two trailers in the first few seconds. First and foremost we are reminded that this is not the German fairy tale that we've come to know previously. Also many shots now show that troll who we saw stealing children seems to be working with Hansel and Gretel throughout most of the movie, my bet is he is still voiced by Will Ferrell, one can only hope. This trailer is much more self-aware as they reference the original story and admit that this version is going to be vastly different.
In this trailer we also see that Hansel and Gretel will eventually stumble upon their old house at which point Hansel says “our parents didn’t abandon us they were murdered”. We then get a few sporadic shots of a single man being hanged by a mob and a lone witch burning at the stake in the background. Were their parents murdered not by witches but instead by a misguided mob who mistook their mother for a temptress? Muriel (Famke Janssen) welcomes Hansel and Gretel to their home also possibly signaling that she could be their lost mother, maybe I’m reading way too much into the undertones here but there has to be a twist somewhere or this is just another lame Van Helsing imitation.
After the family reunion is over we’re treated to more shots of the hots spring sex scene with titles saying “Revenge is sweeter than candy” followed by Hansel (Jeremy Renner) saying “One thing this job has taught me over the years: don’t eat the fucking candy”. So there’s going to be a lot of tongue-in-cheek references to candy, sex and temptation it seems.
This last trailer dropped today so the lack of a rating on the film less than 20 days before it hits theaters might also signal that this film will be marketed in a very deceptive way. I wouldn't be surprised if it is all flesh explosions, blood and gore meant to appeal to a 13 to 16 year-old male audience. They must have really chased after the R rating to get kiddies salivating at the chance of seeing a restricted film.