Is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Steampunk?

Is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Steampunk? Let’s have a look at some of the key elements of the movie in order to decide whether it meets the criteria in order to be classified as steampunk or not. If not, does it fit into one of the other punk aesthetics? Let’s find out. 

Before we get into whether Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters is steampunk or not, let’s look at what the film is about to get a flavor as to whether it is steampunk or not. 

Movie Title: Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Studio: Paramount Picture, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM), MTV Films

Director: Tommy Wirkola

Story By: Jacob Grimm, Tommy Wirkola, Wilhelm Grimm

Release Date: January 25, 2013 (United States)

Main Actors: Jeremy Renner, Gemma Arterton, Peter Stormare

Synopsis: Siblings, Hansel and Gretel are left alone in the woods by their father and captured by a dark witch in a candy house. Eventually, they kill the witch and escape.

Years later, the orphans have become famous, in-demand, witch hunters. When a group of children goes missing in a small village, the Mayor summons Hansel and Gretel to aid in their rescue, and they save the red-haired Mina from the local sheriff who wants to burn her for being a witch.

What Makes a Movie Steampunk?

Before we answer the question, is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters steampunk? Let’s have a look at some of the key characteristics of a steampunk movie.

There are a number of elements that need to combine in order to classify a movie as steampunk. 

Check out our in-depth guide as to what makes a movie steampunk for more information on this. Whether something fits into the steampunk genre or not is a topic that is always up for hot debate in the forums. 

As steampunk sadly never existed, there is no history to check the validity against, however, there is some faux pas that means that something is clearly not steampunk. 

Things such as this we would class as being ‘steampunk inspired’, i.e. they don’t traditionally conform to the steampunk genre, but they have taken elements from it to inspire them

As a quick recap, we’ve lined up our top 10 elements to look out for in a steampunk movie.

If you’re interested in learning more about steampunk, check out our article, ‘What is Steampunk?’, which will take you through the history, influences, fashions, gadgets, and much more. 

Top 10 Things to Look Out for In a Steampunk Movie

  1. The Use of Steam – In steampunk, electricity has never been invented, everything is mechanical and powered by steam. This means that if you can see digital machinery in a movie, it isn’t traditional steampunk, therefore it may be classified as ‘steampunk inspires’  
  2. Steam Powered Vehicles – In steampunk movies, as with the above, you will only see vehicles powered by steam, cars, ships, and even submarines.
  3. Airships – Airships are popular within the steampunk genre – again, mechanically powered.  
  4. Set In Victorian Era or an Alternative History – Steampunk is set in either the Victorian Era (19th Century), or in an alternative, future, occasionally depicted as a ‘wild west’ setting. 
  5. The Clothing – Clothing can vary, but is normally focused around the fashions of Victorian England, or that of a colonial explorer. 
  6. Augmented Mechanical Humans – In steampunk, persons can normally be seen with mechanically replaced elements to their body, sometimes these are full replacements, other times, a mechanical exoskeleton.
  7. Gadgets & Gears – futuristic (mechanical) gadgets are common place in the steampunk genre. A personal favorite is a gun that mechanically springs from up a sleeve to the user’s hand, ready and poised for use. Gears can be seen throughout the steampunk genre, emphasizing the mechanical theme that is central to the aesthetic.  
  8. Time Travel – Time travel is no an essential component of steampunk, however, it can be seen in some steampunk works. Just remember that the time travel device needs to be mechanical and not digital/ electronic.
  9. The Paranormal – The paranormal is not traditional steampunk, however, the crossover between the genres is common. The villain in steampunk is normally a man made creation as opposed to being a mythical creature, demon, vampire, etc. 
  10. Advanced Technology – Technology that is advanced for its time is a standard theme throughout steampunk. The technology must be mechanical in nature, such as the analog computer.

If you’re interested in steampunk movies, why not check out our guide to the best steampunk movies, and see if you can find a new favorite?

So, let’s take a look, is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters steampunk?

What Elements of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Are Steampunk?

The movie is not set in any particular time period, however, the original book from the Brothers Grimm was published in 1812. This slightly pre-dates the Victorian era, in which a lot of steampunk is set, however, this is not a deal-breaker for me. The movie is vague about the time time period and is portrayed as a fairytale meets mystical creature world, ‘a long time ago’. I.e. no specific date.

What is definitely steampunk inspired are the fashions sported by Hansel and Gretel. They are leather with rivets that look handmade and purposefully tailored for their witch-hunting.

What’s more, is that the weapons used are retro-futuristic. Gretel has an automatic crossbow like we see Van Helsing uses in the movie of the same name. All of the weapons appear as if they could have been handmade, but are anachronistic to the period in which the movie is set.

The stun gun is a particular favorite of mine, taking technology that is far too advanced for the era, by making the aesthetic of the gun look old, its existence in the movie feels so normal.

Finally, there is definitely that sense of hope in the movie. A brother and sister duo are recruited to overcome evil in the town and rescue the captured children. This hope for, and working towards a better future is a theme that is often seen in steampunk movies and the genre as a whole.

What Elements of Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Are NOT Steampunk?

The mythical creatures discussed above are more in keeping with a fantasy or fairytale movie, as opposed to traditional steampunk. In traditional steampunk, the ‘creatures’ are often created by man through experiments or invention (often gone wrong).

Director and writer, Tommy Wirkola, has been quoted as saying he, just wanted this crazy, mashed-up world where you can’t pinpoint where it is, or when it is with the modern elements which are seen to add to the fun and tone of the film. This would indicate that there was no intention from Wirkola to make the film anachronistic, from a steampunk point of view, more that he just wanted to have fun and mash up genres.

Is steampunk not about having fun though?

Steam power is not really referenced in the movie. The duo does have access to what looks like a retro take on a modern stun gun which appears to arc electricity in order to stun, this would not necessarily be in keeping with the steampunk world, where electricity had never existed.

So, Overall Is Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters Steampunk?

Overall, no, in the strictest of terms Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, is not a steampunk movie. However, there are certainly enough elements in it namely, the clothing, the retro-futuristic weaponry, and the ‘little man’ triumphing over evil, that are enough for me to categorize this movie as being steampunk inspired.

What are your thoughts? Is the movie Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters steampunk? Let us know in the comments below what your opinion is and why.

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