Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.35:1 on this Blu-Ray Disc. This was a generally good image but not a great one.
Low-light shots – of which we found plenty – provided the most obvious concerns. Blacks seemed deep enough, but shadow detail tended to be lackluster, as these scenes were usually too dark. This marred another recent supernatural film - Beautiful Creatures - and I strongly suspect it’s a visual choice; for reasons unknown, filmmakers seem to be more and more enamored with overly opaque nighttime sequences. That wouldn’t be a big deal if we didn’t get a lot of them, but Hunters featured so many that it turned into a distraction.
Otherwise, this was a positive presentation. Sharpness came across as accurate and concise, with little to no softness on display. I witnessed no jaggies or shimmering, and edge haloes remained absent.
As expected from a brand-new movie, I saw no print flaws. Also as expected from a modern action flick, the palette tended heavily toward orange and teal. That style seems tedious, but within the visual limitations, the colors looked fine. The semi-murky low-light shots made this a “B-“ image, though I suspect it replicated the source accurately.
I felt satisfied with the film’s strong Dolby TrueHD 5.1 soundtrack. With so much action on display, the mix came to life frequently and used all five channels in an active, dynamic manner. Arrows and other weapons zipped around the room, and louder explosions/fire elements created a vivid sense of impact. All of these moments meshed together in a fulfilling way to create a terrific soundscape.
Audio quality also worked well. Music was dynamic and full, with clean highs and rich lows. Effects appeared accurate and bold; bass response added real kick when appropriate. Speech appeared concise and natural. All in all, I thought this was a terrific track.
The Blu-ray presents the film’s Unrated Cut (1:37:56). How does this compare to the theatrical version found on a bonus DVD (1:27:53)? Many of the changes come from brief additions to existing scenes; we’ll often find a few seconds to pad out a scene, usually in the form of extra profanity or gore.
In terms of longer elements, we see a fight between the sheriff and the mayor, and we also watch Hansel hit on a woman at a bar. We get a lot more of the witches; we see extra shots of their torture of the children as well as an interrogation. In addition, the scene in which the sheriff and his goons attack Gretel receives different editing; it shows up later in the story via the Unrated Cut.
Does any of this make the Unrated Cut superior to the theatrical version? Not really. Fans may like it better because it’s a bit more graphic, and the story points do flesh out the witches a little better. Nonetheless, the added 10 minutes don’t create anything to clearly improve the movie.
Three featurettes follow. Reinventing Hansel & Gretel goes for 15 minutes, 41 seconds and provides comments from producer Kevin Messick, writer/director Tommy Wirkola, and actors Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Famke Janssen, and Peter Stormare. We learn about the project’s origins and development, story/characters, cast and performances, stunts and action. The show doesn’t dig into the production in detail, but it delivers some good notes.
The Witching Hour lasts nine minutes, one second and offers notes from Wirkola, Renner, Messick, Janssen, Stormare, Arterton, creature and makeup effects designer Mike Elizalde, and actor Derek Mears.The featurette looks at the film’s depiction of witches, with info about character design, makeup and effects. Like “Reinventing”, we don’t get a lot of depth, but we find a decent overview of witch-related topics.
Finally, the five-minute, 35-second Meet Edward the Troll features Wirkola, Messick, Mears, Arterton, Renner, and Elizalde. They tell us the techniques used to bring the Edward character to life. This offers another short but interesting piece.
As already mentioned, the set also provides a DVD copy of Hunters. This offers the movie’s theatrical cut – unavailable on the Blu-ray – and previews but lacks other extras.
Does the concept behind Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters sound intriguing? Yup. Does the end result entertain? Nope – despite massive amounts of action and gore, the film falls curiously flat. The Blu-ray offers decent visuals along with excellent audio and a few useful featurettes. I wanted to like the film but it left me cold.