Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Witch Hunters Is a Bad Film, But a Good Movie.

Have you ever watched a movie that you knew, in your heart, was absolutely awful, but you couldn’t help loving anyway?

I mean, I definitely have. I own a DVD of Timeline, the blink-and-you-missed-it adaptation of one of Michael Crichton’s lesser known (and deservedly so) books. It stars Paul Walker (from The Fast and the Furious movies) and Billy Connolly as his dad, both of whom are “archaeologists”. It also includes a horribly miscast Francis O’Connor and Gerard Butler, and features Anna Friel (Pushing Daisies) speaking French. It is not a good film. But I love it. I paid money for it.

So when I say that Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters is not a good film, I want you to understand that I don’t mean this in a bad way. I mean it in a purely objective, some things are just bad, way. Witchhunters is a bad movie. I still loved it.

Allow me to explain.

Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters follows siblings Hansel and Gretel after they were abandoned in the woods by their father. They find the witch’s house, blah blah blah, kill her, and decide that killing one witch wasn’t enough, they should kill them all. And so our story goes, with two heroes brutally murdering witches, and woe betide anyone who gets in their way.

The specific plot of this film is so incidental to the actual movie, that I have no guilt in spoiling it right here. Trust me, you won’t care. At all. Basically, they’re called to a town to hunt down some witch-napped children. It turns out that the witches doing the napping are trying to create some spell that will make them immortal. To do it they need the heart of a “Grand White Witch”, which, we discover via a villain monologue, belonged to Hansel and Gretel’s mother. Because she was a witch. A good witch. Cue gasp.

Because genetics apparently equal destiny, now Gretel has the necessary heart, and is a target for the evil witches. It’s all very silly and extremely confusing. Gemma Arterton does a good job, but really can’t make up for the baffling plot, and while Famke Janssen is fabulous in her role as the evil scenery chewing witch, she gets a bit lost under the makeup. Jeremy Renner is, of course, lovely as Hansel (who has diabetes as a result of the candy house incident, a funny addition to the story), but doesn’t get to do much.

When I say that Witch Hunters is a bad film, what I mean is that it is not properly made and does not function in the way that a “good” film should. It does not create a cohesive world for the characters to inhabit, the story is bizarre and convoluted, and the writing is pretty bad. Also the cinematography is crap, the casting is so-so, and the music is over-dramatic and unnecessary. Plus, effects weren’t great.

Everything that is supposed to make this movie “a film” is pretty awful. It has a spectacular 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes (which is very, very bad), and has been universally panned by critics.

I want a sequel. Badly.

So if this is a bad film, why did I like it so much? Well, basically, because it was fun.

People often discount the necessity of fun in films. We claim that the only “good” movie is a serious movie, and that comedy can never be artistic. I’m not claiming that Witchhunters is artistic by any means (maybe Dadaist, but that’s a stretch). What I’m saying is that it is funny, and that covers over a host of sins.

The film is riddled with epic one-liners, profoundly good use of profanity, and the kind of eye-rolling character reactions that utterly mimic the audience’s. Hansel and Gretel work as anachronistic heroes because we like them. While everyone else is living in a medieval fantasy world, these two characters are swearing, speaking with American accents, and blowing up buildings. We get them.

The movie is cheesy as all get out, with Hansel and Gretel toting an anachronistic but very fun armory of proto-machine guns and explosives that didn’t exist yet but are hilarious anyway. Even Gretel’s crossbow is a wildly inexplicable thing, at one point splitting and firing simultaneously in opposite directions, which is just no.

We won’t even get into how ridiculous the costumes get here, but I do just want to point out that any time you figure that Hansel has his leather coat buttoned all the way up for safety, Gretel wishes she could do that, but her boobs won’t allow it. I’m just saying there was a lot of unnecessary cleavage. (Though, rather skewered by the scene where a worshipful fanboy tries to clean muck off her chest and Gretel nearly kills him.)

Personally, I liked the movie because while the characters were ridiculous and completely unrealistic, they were fun and relatable. They were people having a bad day at work. And I love that. I loved that Gretel didn’t get a love interest (unless you count the hilariously named troll), and that the movie passed the Bechdel Test with flying colors.

But mostly, I loved that it was fun. It was a fun movie that didn’t make me feel like a bad person for watching it. I mean, it wasn’t well made, or written, or even very logical, but I enjoyed it. And it proved that you don’t have to be offensive to make a good movie. You just need a good sense of humor.

Just. So much love.


  1. If only more people loved it we'd have our sequel.

    It immediately became one of my favorite movies. As it was ending all I could think was, "Why isn't the next one already out? I need it!"

    It's definitely one of those franchises where the story is better than the writing. But just with love/hate tv shows, you don't fix the problem by cancelling future productions. The movie reminds me of when a new writer gets ahold of an established tv show and you still love their episode(s) because it's the same characters in it and that world and the right theme but the writing just doesn't quite live up to the show.

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