Face-Off: Season of the Witch vs. Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters

Vin Diesel may be THE LAST WITCH HUNTER in this weekend's new release, but he's not the first big name action star to go up against black magic. He's following in the footsteps of guys like Nicolas Cage, who starred in the 2011 film SEASON OF THE WITCH, and Jeremy Renner, who was one of the title characters in 2013's HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS years before he was hanging out with Scarlet Witch in AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON. So while we look forward to seeing how Diesel will fare in his battle with evil forces, let's also take a look back at the characters played by Cage and Renner in the witch-themed films they headlined, and find out which of them will come out the victor when they're pitted against each other.
Nicolas Cage plays 14th century knight Behmen, a man introduced as he fights his way through twelve years of battles. He kills without remorse until he is tricked into taking part in a massacre of women and children, an event that causes him to walk away from the Crusades. It's his conscience that gets him involved with transporting a young woman accused of using witchcraft and causing the Black Plague to her trial by monks, as he wants to make sure she is treated fairly. Behmen is one of Cage's more subdued performances of recent years, and he comes off as kind of bland overall.
After surviving the "cannibal witch in a candy house" scenario the Brothers Grimm wrote about, Hansel has made it his mission in life to eradicate the witch problem in 1800s Europe, both for profit and just for the good of the land. Over the years, he and his sister Gretel have achieved legendary status. Like many action heroes, Hansel is a taciturn fellow, and his greatest weakness isn't the fact that his diabetes demands that he take an insulin shot every few hours, it's that he is pretty inept at interacting with members of the opposite sex. Renner does very well at making Hansel a likeable guy.
Behman is accompanied by several characters on his journey, but the standout is Ron Perlman as his pal Felson, who fought beside him in every battle and deserted the knighthood with him. Felson enjoys a fight, and he enjoys celebrating his victories with copious amounts of both alcohol and women. As fun as Perlman is, the character doesn't feel like he's used to his full potential, he's not given quite enough to do.
Hansel's companion is, of course, his sister Gretel, played by Bond girl Gemma Arterton. She's just as tough, and tough-talking, as her brother. In fact, in early scenes it appears that she will turn out to be the more capable badass of the two. As the movie goes on, Gretel gets let down a bit, being repeatedly put in jeopardy as Hansel is given more of the action. She has to be saved by a troll, then she has to be saved by Hansel. It's a disappointing turn of events.
Behman's primary antagonist in the film is the young woman he and his cohorts are transporting in a barred wagon. For much of the running time we're left to wonder whether or not "The Girl" (Claire Foy) is truly a witch, although she certainly has a fascinating dark edge to her. Ultimately, it is revealed that Behman's true enemy is the legendary demon Baal, who wants to get his hands on an ancient tome so he can use the spells within to plunge the world into endless darkness.
Arterton's fellow Bond girl Famke Janssen is Hansel and Gretel's main villain, a "grand witch" called Muriel. With the aid of a couple over-the-top henchwitches and a traitorous troll played by Derek Mears, Muriel is seeking to use the blood of the innocent and the heart of a "white witch" to brew a potion during the night of a blood moon that will make witches immune to fire, the main method of dispatching them. That's a lot of steps to reach a simple goal. Witchin' ain't easy.
Behman is an expert with bladed weapons, having struck down hundreds of enemies with his sword. Put a knife in his hand and he'll do pretty well with that, too. Along with this skill, he has incredibly quick reflexes, so quick that he can use his blades to deflect arrows that are fired at him.
Impervious to magic and armed with anachronistic, advanced firepower, Hansel and Gretel have Behman beat by a mile in this department. While his sister uses a rapid firing crossbow, Hansel prefers guns - mostly a shotgun, but he breaks out a cache that includes a minigun for the climax. He can also avoid arrows, but he does so MATRIX style.
The Girl is a master manipulator who gets inside the men's heads and exploits their weaknesses, causing them to hallucinate. She also has superhuman strength and is able to call on bloodthirsty wolves. When Baal shows up on the scene, the bat-like creature demonstrates a command of fire and creates demon-zombie henchmen to help it achieve its evil goal. Bat-demons are scary and all, they're nothing anyone wants to mess with, but Baal really isn't that impressive in action.
Even your basic witch is tougher than Baal. These crones are gifted with super speed and strength, fly around on brooms, control the trees and vines of the forest, make people turn their weapons on themselves and their allies, toss fireballs like the Green Goblin throws pumpkin bombs... Most impressive is when they give someone the "curse of hunger for crawling things", making them eat crawly critters until they burst. Literally, they explode.
Although I actually prefer watching SEASON OF THE WITCH over HANSEL & GRETEL: WITCH HUNTERS, I have to give it up to the fairy tale kids - when broken down into these categories, HANSEL & GRETEL is the clear winner. Jeremy Renner's Hansel proves to be a better fighter of supernatural forces than Cage's Behman, and he has more powerful enemies to deal with.

Now to find out how well Vin Diesel's witch hunting character Kaulder will stack up in comparison to Hansel...

Do you agree with the outcome of this Face-Off, or do you think Cage should have beaten Renner? Let us know in the comments. If you have any suggestions for future Face-Offs, I would love to hear them. You can send them to me at [email protected]



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