By Josh Melo
The Last Witchhunter (Review)
While much better than anticipated, The Last Witch Hunter is still a far cry from must see blockbuster entertainment. With a supporting cast that never sticks around long enough to get invested in, a paper-thin plot and a varying performance from Vin Diesel (not to mention a ton of other quality options to choose from in theaters) The Last Witch Hunter is (almost) the last movie you’d want to see this weekend.
The film begins years in the past as Kaulder (Diesel) and his band of knight’s travel to a giant magical tree that houses the Witch Queen plaguing the world. The Black Death is spreading, killing millions, and it is up to the Axe and Cross to venture forth and rid the world of the scourge responsible. In an admittedly spectacular opening sequence, Kaulder manages to kill the Witch Queen but only after he is cursed with immortality. Kaulder must then spend the rest of his existence watching those around him die while he endlessly hunts down witches in an attempt to keep the world safe.
As previously mentioned the film does feature some outstanding visual effects. The magic infused medieval world we are first dropped into is beautiful in every sense and when the world catches fire it is equally magnificent in its destruction. Unfortunately, after this sequence the film is set in the modern world. Trade in the epic tree fortress and badass armor for the streets of New York and a fancy suit jacket. The shift in setting isn’t a bad thing in itself as the film still does manage to excite visually (see the bar sequence and final confrontation) but it does clash with the world the film is trying to impress on its audience.
In a world where magic is supposed to be hidden and forbidden, it is literally everywhere. A bakery run by a warlock has myriad insects crawling out of every crevasse in the store yet not a single person notices. A giant tree sprouts out of nowhere releasing millions of bugs and nobody bats an eye. It all just makes for a confusing world that fails to live up to the potential it displayed so early on.
Looking past the imagery, let’s talk cast. At the outset the film is performed well. Diesel is perfect in the role of the stoic Kaulder leading his men to what they assume is their deaths but also the ultimate glory. And then the time shift happens and he is lost somewhere between being a playboy, a lonely soldier longing for his family and Dom from the Fast and Furious franchise. Diesel isn’t terrible as any given persona but the fact that his personality is so all over the place makes it near impossible to invest in the character or his story.
The lack of consistency can be found in the supporting cast as well. Featuring a solid ensemble including Michael Caine, Elijah Wood and Game of Thrones alumni Rose Leslie, one would expect a decent showing. If only we ever got to see them for a reasonable amount of time. These characters swap in and out of the story so frequently that we never get to learn who they are or why they do what they do. We are just expected to accept their existence and ride along with whatever it is they do. Individually the performances aren’t terrible, the problem comes from the fact that we just don’t care.
This character deficiency ultimately renders the films already clichéd twists even more ineffectual. Having Elijah Wood’s character suddenly reveals himself to be an ally of the witches comes off as nothing but random and confusing as he hasn’t been seen for the last thirty minutes.
The romantic subplot adds to the mess that is the film’s varied tone. Firstly, Rose Leslie and Vin Diesel have little chemistry to speak of. Secondly, Leslie looks like a child in comparison to Diesel making the entire relationship reek of taboo, which isn’t something you want in a mindless action romp (or in anything other than a piece specifically addressing such subject matter). However, I do give them props for not actually having the two characters get together in the end.
The final point I’d like to address is the cluttered and hastily put together ending of the film. Bringing us the closest to the awesome that was the opening segment, Kaulder may have lost his immortality but he is still Vin Diesel. He strikes the Witch down with some insane thunder magic and is faced with the opportunity to destroy her heart (which will keep her from ever returning but will end his own life in the process). But in the interest of the inevitable sequel (which isn’t so inevitable anymore considering it’s dismal performance at the box office) he is asked to hide the heart instead.
It is a moment of immense hypocrisy and further cements the film as a poor experience all around. It looks really pretty though and most of the action beats are satisfying, if not entirely necessary or deserved.
Overall The Last Witch Hunter gets a 5/10 STARS.
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