Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters may sound like a studio executive's dream, but its long, troubled production — which saw the film pushed back from a planned March 2012 release date — has been more like a nightmare. The film, which stars Jeremy Renner and Gemma Aterton, was reportedly delayed to allow Renner's star to rise after high-profile roles in The Avengers and The Bourne Legacy, though the move to a 2013 release date in January, a month typically used by studios as a dumping ground for their worst films, left many critics skeptical about the movie's quality. On Tuesday, almost half a year after the film's intended premiere, the first trailer for Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters hit the internet. Here's what commentators are saying:
1. This looks shockingly awful
This is less like a trailer and more like "a compendium of every exhausting trope in modern movie-making and advertising," says Travis Woods at ScreenCrave. Director Tommy Wirkola is following the template used by similar-looking films such as Snow White and the Huntsman or Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter: Take a classic, familiar story or character, apply "grim, modernist, action-film overtones," and use "a ton of CGI." This is yet another dumb, desperate attempt by Hollywood to launch a lucrative franchise.
2. There's nothing wrong with a stupid action movie — as long as it's fun
"Is this a dumb idea for a movie? Sure," says Nathan Adams at Film School Rejects. "But dumb can be fun when it's fully embraced," and judging by the trailer, Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters "has no trouble embracing" its ludicrous premise. And theatergoers may not have a choice but to embrace Hansel & Gretel. It comes out in the post-Christmas lull, on January 11, so there "won't be much else out in theaters that week anyway." Maybe that was Paramount's plan all along.
3. Is Jeremy Renner in on the joke?
In a year that's seen Jeremy Renner play a "superhuman archer" (The Avengers) and a "superhuman agent" (The Bourne Legacy), Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters somehow manages to be his "most ridiculous project yet," says Natalie Zutter at Crushable. Although Renner spends much of the trailer deploying his trademark "focused scowl," the narration makes it clear that he'll also be cracking the occasional joke — which is pivotal to the film's success. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters can only work if the actors play it as "a fun, campy romp."
4. Does the movie have to be so sexist?
The title is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, so "why does Gretel have to get kidnapped?" asks Michael Arbieter at Hollywood.com. (The abduction in question occurs at 1:40 in the film's trailer.) The movie is based on the idea that both Hansel and Gretel grew up to be extremely skilled witch hunters, so "is it really necessary that the female be kidnapped and the male make it his mission to rescue her?" The original Grimm Brothers fairy tale may be old, but that doesn't excuse Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters' apparently creaky sexual politics.
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