The Last Witch Hunter and all the images you see in this review are owned by Summit Entertainment
Directed by Breck Eisner
And so we find ourselves with yet another chance for Vin Diesel to prove his nerd creds. The guy is one of the biggest nerds in Hollywood and has shown it time and time again by attaching himself to big sci-fi and fantasy epics in between Fast and Furious sequels. While some have been great like Pitch Black, others have not been so great like Babylon A.D. Will The Last Witch Hunter be one of his better forays into bringing table top gaming to the silver screen, or will this be another misstep for an actor who can’t catch a break unless he’s behind the wheel of a car? Let’s find out!!
The movie chronicles the modern day adventures of Kaulder (Vin Diesel); the immortal witch hunter who was cursed with this power by a witch he killed. Seems legit I guess. For the past couple hundred years he’s been working for The Axe and Cross to keep the peace between humanity and magic users who are allowed to live, but only under Harry Potter rules. None of the humans outside of the Axe and Cross (which I’m PRETTY sure is just the Catholic Church) are to know about them and their powers and anyone who uses their powers on humans are the next victims of Kaulder. After getting back from a trip to stop a witch from hurting herself and others with some dangerous rocks, Kaulder finds out that the Axe and Cross’s official liaison for him, the thirty-sixth Dolan (Michal Caine), is retiring and being replaced by the thirty-seventh Dolan (Elijah Wood). However, his retirement is short lived as THE VERY NEXT DAY Kaulder gets a call that the dude had keeled over. With bullshit detectors that have been sharped over hundreds of years, it doesn’t take long for him to realize that the cause of death was MURDER!!! Who could possibly be behind his death!? Well Kaulder intends to find out along with the thirty-seventh Dolan and a local witch (Rose Leslie) whose life Kaulder ruins yet still feels like tagging along for this very dangerous endeavor. Will Kaulder find out who killed his friend? Is there a greater mystery to be solved when they find out WHY he was killed? Is this at least as good as Constantine!?
This movie is stupid. What? You need more than that? On a scale of 1 to bullshit, this movie is a big ol’ piece of dookie. As a Highlander knock off, this is as nonsensical as The Quickening and about as competently shot as The Source. It feels like the worst mix between a Vin Diesel passion project and a cynical marketing committee taking advantage of that fact. Someone spent three days crafting together a universe and storyline that Vin Diesel can get behind, but then only spent another two hours finishing the rest of the script while paying a janitor twenty bucks to direct the damn thing. It’s like someone saw Gentlemen Broncos and decided to make their own version of Yeast Lords. That’s right! This movie is SO BAD I had to pull out a Gentlemen Broncos reference.
Right away the movie let you know how bad this shit is going to be by starting off with an action scene that is incompetently filmed. I assume Vin Diesel is actually a physically capable human being that can swing a sword but you wouldn’t know so judging by the way they decided to film the big confrontation scene between him and the Witch Queen. The ludicrous number of quick cuts coupled with the baffling cinematography (which feels like the cameraman was tether to Vin Diesel the entire time so I couldn’t get more than two fucking feet away from him) makes for a completely incomprehensible action scene. Remember, this is the action scene they started off with. This is the action scenes that supposed to get you excited for the rest of the movie and it fails utterly.
That shit is just the tip of the iceberg as far as how terrible the action is in this movie. Guess what they decide to add for every other fucking action scene? For the rest of the movie they subject us to poorly done action scenes during thunderstorms, which means that on top of having a cut every third of a second and shitty cinematography, the screen will just flash white over and over and over again to the point that I was getting fucking sick sitting in the movie trying to watch it. I’m not someone who is prone to seizures or anything like that, but wat trying to watch this movie was a chore and I had to keep my notebook held up in front of my face whenever the action got going and then tried to peek around it every once in a while to see what was going on before the screen will try to blind me again. What should be a saving grace for action movies with weak stories is completely undone by shoddy filmmaking and painful flashing. The choreography could be amazing in this for all I know, but if that was the case then the filmmakers clearly didn’t want me to see it.
So with the action this bad we don’t have anything to distract us from the story, and I assure you that this is half assed writing all the way through. It takes promising ideas and a cool premise, but then mishandled them (out of laziness or incompetence) to the point that every scrap of interest I had for what this movie was setting up was lost in the first thirty minutes and then it just continued to piss me off for another hour. Concepts like The Axe and Cross that watches over Kaulder, the council of whoever the fuck that tries captured witches, and the prison that houses the bad witches are all unexplained and add nothing to this story. Oh, and about that prison? Apparently they get frozen inside a giant wall, but the only way to get into said wall is to get shoved up the ass of a giant tree creature. That was when I knew this movie had no idea what the fuck it was doing and was just spewing random stuff at the screen to make it look all epic and dense (by having people shoved up the ass of giant tree creature). Look at a movie like Men in Black which this movie is trying to crib off of in terms of the kind of world they wish to set up. A secret society is right under humanity’s nose and it’s being held in check by a secret organization. That movie was able to get so much across in its modest running time because it had something to focus on. This meanwhile has no idea what it’s doing and therefore never lets the audience know which details are important. Speaking of important details, the movie has no idea what to do with Vin Diesel’s two supporting players (Rose Leslie as Chloe the witch and Elijah Wood as the thirty-seventh Dolan) and they just kind of hang around in the back until the plot finally gives them something to do. Chloe is revealed to have a superpower an hour into the movie that would have been very useful earlier in the film, but is kept secret for contrivances sake. Pro-tip screen writers: don’t give one of your characters a quest and then reveal that a supporting character could have solved the problem for them long ago. There’s no way the audience is going to buy whatever excuse you come up with, especially if they’ve been with the main character the entire time on said quest. She gets it easy though compared to Elijah Wood who you’d THINK would be in the whole movie from the advertisements, but is actually barely in the thing. he shows up early on then fucks off to do research or whatever for most of the running time until they bring him back for one of the stupidest story beats in the entire movie. What they do with him doesn’t make any sense and is just there to provide a momentary roadblock that’s easily overcome. At least when Zachary Quinto was hamming it up in Agent 47, he was actually committed to it and was in the damn movie. Here? They just hide Elijah Wood in a closet until it’s time for him to act like an idiot.
This movie is not COMPLETELY awful. As much as I birches about the opening fight scene, the first thirty minutes did show some potential. Once Kaulder is in modern times, we have a scene of him dealing with a situation WITHOUT having to decapitate MoFos. The movie took the time to show that on top of being a badass swordsman, he’s also quite knowledgeable about magic and is willing to HELP witches rather than just hunt them. I like the implication that living for that long has given him some perspective and compassion so that he doesn’t hate all witches just because of what some of them did to his family and what others have done since then. It’s a good starting place to build a likable character around and it also means that this story doesn’t have to be about him getting over his witch racism (which naturally would be facilitated by Chloe being earnest and hot). There’s also a very fun scene with Michael Caine which has some strong dialogue and give you even more reasons to like Kaulder. Outside of the early story elements, it does have some strong art design with Kaulder’s badass flame sword and the intricate whorls and insignias on all his doo-dads and accoutrement. It does give the movie a bit of personality even if the film making and story line makes it unworthy of such effort. Really though, that’s about it for what’s good here. Like I said, the movie squander any goodwill it earns with the convoluted storyline and shoddy action scenes which is disappointing considering that there IS something here and I can see why Vin Diesel would want to be a part of this. That is, I can understand why he was INITIALLY interested, but I have no idea what he was thinking after he read the ENTIRE script.
I didn’t want to hate this movie. I like fantasy and sword fights mixed in with modern settings technology and there aren’t enough movies like that out there. Whatever this movie could have been though was lost amid the terrible cinematography and half-baked script. Vin Diesel is trying to make this work and I get that he REALLY wanted to be in a movie like this considering Kaulder is pretty much based on his D&D character, but what he was able to put in this was not enough. He should have either passed on such a poor script or demanded that it be improved before moving forward with the film. As it stands, this movie is dumb as hell and might be one of the more disappointing films of the year because of how badly they screwed this up. It’s just a chaotic mess and is not worth your time. Maybe it will work next time Mr. Diesel. You’ve got at least one more Riddick movie in you, right?
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