Written and directed by Dead Snow’s Tommy Wirkola, it’s fair to say the previously promising filmmaker’s Hollywood debut is something of a misstep.
Reimaging the classic fairy tale, a young Hansel and Gretel are lured into a house made of candy and locked away by an evil witch, only throwing her into the fire intended for them is enough to escape.
Cut to 15 years later and it seems killing witches has become something of a hobby. Wandering the land as bounty hunters, when the children of a small town go missing, the sheriff hires the pair to track down the evil witches and bring the town’s children back to safety.
There are quite simply a lot of problems with Hansel and Gretel. Laden with unnecessary gore and crude language, the film won’t find an audience with younger teens kept out by 15 and R ratings. The plot is silly and illogical, and as the tone falls awkwardly between fantasy adventure and parody, Witch Hunters feels half-hearted and sloppy.
Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton as the lead duo were always walking into trouble and can’t give any real gravitas to the hammy dialogue dropped in their lap. These are two actors with talent and charisma but they’re chronically under-used. And yet the biggest issue is something altogether different.
There has been a problem for a while now of Hollywood not taking its influence on society seriously and responsibly. Not all films have to contain a moral lesson, far from it, but topics in films, whether central to the story or a side-issue, should and must be researched and accurate.
The inclusion of diabetes in Hansel and Gretel was entirely superfluous to the plot and yet so genuinely unforgivable in its execution. Giving Hansel diabetes because of eating “too much candy” as a child, Wirkola set in motion an ignorant and dangerously inaccurate portrayal of the disease.
While no one will walk into Hansel and Gretel expecting a medical masterclass, people do take away an underlying impression and key facts about subjects like this. Hansel is portrayed as being Type 1 Diabetic – actually an auto-immune disease and unrelated to poor diet – injecting insulin to stop him suffering from the “sugar sickness”. It is instead Type 2 diabetes that comes largely from lifestyle, but sufferers don’t take insulin in the same way. And it gets worse when he’s struggling in battle.
On several occasions, Hansel loses all energy, becoming shivery and confused, needing to take a shot of medicine (portrayed as insulin) to get better. Then within seconds of taking the injection it’s like he has super powers. When he’s feeling drained he’s actually having a Hypo, or low blood sugar crash, at which point injecting insulin would put your life dangerously at risk and potentially into a coma. If people who had seen the film went to aid a diabetic having a serious hypo and thought in a snapshot, “Oh, they need some insulin!”, the results don’t bear thinking about. It’s fantastic when subjects with little true public understanding (like Diabetes) are covered in cinema, but filmmakers have to do it in a factually correct fashion, otherwise they’re just pushing stereotypical misconceptions even further. And that’s exactly what happens over the course of Hansel and Gretel.
Some films are dreadful without recourse, but this is an unforgivable (and still leggy) 88 minutes. Dangerously ignorant and inaccurate on the subject of diabetes, Hansel and Gretel should be disregarded at all costs, and the filmmakers really ashamed they put something so irresponsible on the big screen.
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