Say you are a studio executive and your studio has finished production on a film that, frankly, isn’t very good. You know it’s not very good, but you also know that the production has devoured a considerable amount of the studio’s money and it is imperative that you make that money back and then some. What do you do? Why, you release the film in the cinematic black hole that is the month of January, and pray fervently to God that even while a sea of critics lambast your film, audiences will take to it like ducks to preheated ovens. In the case of last year’s Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, starring Jeremy Renner and Gemma Arterton, this plan worked to a tee. Despite scathing reviews that affirmed that the film was too silly to be truly scary yet too self-aware to be truly funny, Hansel and Gretel made a bit of a killing at the box office, making back its budget more than three times over and becoming Paramount Picture’s fourth highest grossing film last year, only behind World War Z, Star Trek Into Darkness and G.I. Joe: Retaliation. And so, since this is Hollywood, where money rules all else, a sequel is in the works. Paramount Pictures executive, Edward Ryan, has revealed that pre-production is set to begin on Hansel and Gretel 2, and the film is scheduled to be released in 2016. Beyond that, there is very little information about the movie.
Hansel and Gretel was always meant to be the first in a series, so it is easy to assume that Renner and Arterton signed on with this knowledge and will return to reprise their roles. While the fate of the writer and director of the first film Tommy Wirkola is not nearly as certain, the entire franchise is his brainchild so it is probably safe to say that he too will be back on board. Up until the release of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters, Wirkola was probably best known for his comedy-horror film Dead Snow about seven students in the Norwegian mountains battling to survive a horde of Nazi zombies. You know, highbrow stuff. The pure irreverent zaniness that has up to this point being characteristic of Wirkola’s work was on full display in Hansel and Gretel and it almost certainly will be on full display in the sequel.
For Paramount Pictures, 2016 is a loaded year, with many new installments of established franchises scheduled for release. This includes sequels for Paranormal Activity: The Marked Ones, G.I. Joe: Retribution, Transformers: Age of Extinction and Star Trek Into Darkness. The success of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters was unprecedented, especially since similar movies with much larger budgets like Snow White and the Huntsman and Jack the Giant Slayer failed to match the percentage studio profits that Hansel and Gretel gained. Couple that with the fact that the makers of the film were always aware that it would not be a critical hit (“We knew this was never going to be a movie for the critics,” admitted Renner) and it becomes quite easy to understand why Paramount has decided to go full steam ahead with a sequel anyway. That being said, it isn’t too much to ask that the next Witch Hunters film be at least marginally better than the first one was…is it?
Written By: Josiah Omotosho