This movie was, in a word, horrible. Admittedly it starts from a fairy tale that plays heavily on an archetype of older women that portrays them as evil. The existence of witches in fairy tales show society’s uselessness for the aging woman, it’s fear of the single woman, and it’s demonization of feminine sexuality. So, why any self-respecting filmmaker would create a movie based on such a feminist abomination in the first place is beyond me.
To look beyond the obvious lack of character development, and then the cookie-cutter ending, I shall focus my feminist analysis by looking mainly at Gretel, as well as other female characters.
Gretel in particular lacks any sort of development. She abides by liberal feminist standards of possessing male traits, and succeeding in a patriarchal structure. For example, she is physically strong, and fights the “bad guys” with all sorts of weaponry and force. In classic masculine style, she shoots first and talks later. This same structure forces her to step aside and be saved by men, whether this saviour came in the form of a troll, the geeky sidekick, or her brother. Needless to say, Gretel conforms to sexual expectations for her, by dressing in tight-fitting leather. Gratuitious shots of her cleavage and legs abound. She comes across as a particularly shell-like creation, more of a Mary-Sue than a heroine.
The other female characters don’t fare much better. Both of the “good witches” perish. Joy is taken in slaying women, and one woman is falsely accused of being a witch. The female characters aren’t friends. Witches are either old hags, or hyper-sexualized. Even Mina the White Witch ends up getting it on with Hansel. It is worth noting that she helps to save Hansel several times, making her a bit of a Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She’s whimsical, eccentric, and serves the purpose of furthering our hero in his journey, dying once he’s finished. The final fight scene is absolutely rife with racial stereotypes: kung fu witches from Japan being the main offensive example.
It is worth mentioning that the movie passes the Bechdel Test, as Gretel interrogates and speaks to several witches. Although Hansel is heavily involved in the conversations, and they are clearly on different sides, Bechdel’s law stands.
The story is an uncritical, made-to-sell version that refuses to analyze the forces at work in creating the characters in the original fairy tale. Old widowed women portrayed as witches who steal children is inherently problematic, and plays on fears of single women that should be evident to anyone writing a script based off of the classic fairytale. I think it’s obvious by now that I was not a fan of Hansel & Gretel, a movie that I will not mince words for. The fact that the ending set up for a sequel is just the icing on the (remarkably sexist) cake.