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Overall Rating
2.11

Awesome: 0%
Worth A Look: 0%
Average: 22.22%
Pretty Bad66.67%
Total Crap: 11.11%

1 review, 3 user ratings


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Last Witch Hunter, The
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by Jay Seaver

"Could be good with a few weeks to work the kinks out; alas, it's a movie."
2 stars

That "The Last Witch Hunter" didn't particularly impress on its first weekend at the box office may not mean anything for its long-term prospects; look at how many sequels to "Pitch Black" and "The Fast and the Furious" that Vin Diesel has done without those necessarily being huge hits initially. The irony is, those were modest, basically self-contained productions where this is a big and expensive thing that plays like a TV pilot, and it's not always the thing designed to hook people long-term that actually does.

This starts with not one, but two, sequences meant to build up the film's world: The first takes place eight hundred years in the past, when a group of burly warriors look to kill the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) who has unleashed the Black Plague, with Kaulder (Diesel) managing it but being cursed with her immortality as an act of revenge. In the present, he's handling it pretty well, spotting a young witch who has handled some objects of great power carelessly on a plane and nearly brings it down. Kaulder doesn't execute witches these days, though - there's a truce that allows for imprisonment for those who use their powers to harm humans, administered on the human side by the Ax & Cross, a secret wing of the Catholic Church (or I suppose they could be Episcopalian). A priest taking the name "Dolan" chronicles Kaulder's deeds, although the 36th (Michael Caine) is retiring after fifty years in favor of a younger man (Elijah Wood). Magical foul play prevents old Dolan from enjoying his retirement, and with the clues to what is afoot apparently being locked in Kaulder's mind, he enlists Chloe (Rose Leslie), a young witch who specializes in memory potions.

A generation ago, movies like this weren't nearly so elaborate in construction, and that's not just because producers are looking for something that can handle half a dozen sequels without being stretched and distorted away from its original appeal; the audience that wants and expects details is no longer a niche but the mainstream. The filmmakers don't do a bad job of world-building at all, and not just because they've got a Michael Caine voiceover on tap for early moments when a little straight-up exposition is necessary. The writers find the important balance between building a setting which feels open rather than purpose-built on the one hand and not introducing too many things that won't actually be useful on the other. As this sort of modern fantasy goes, it's fairly well-constructed and the story is surprisingly tight.

It still seems like there are a lot of missed opportunities, the biggest being that no matter how many times Kaulder calls Dolan XXXVI "kid", he never really feels like a guy who has been around forever. That he adapts well is find and potentially interesting, but his immortality never weighs on him the way a supposed curse should. Early on, it looks like they might be going somewhere with it - there's a villain running around with the hair and animal-skin clothing of Kaulder's compatriots from the beginning, but it turns out the guy is just Finnish. The Witch Queen's ranting hints at some sort of "witches are closer to nature and don't despoil the environment" angle, but it's never played up. Chloe asks a question starting with "who says witches can't" toward the end, and, honestly, I couldn't remember this ever being an issue. The plot twists, such as they are, are fairly rote.

There's not much wonder to its magic or excitement to its action, either. Kaulder having a flaming sword is cool, make no mistake, and it looks good in hero shots, but when director Breck Eisner has people actually fighting, it winds up choppy and bland. There's no sense of place or sense that these magical people can do anything other than regenerate as they take a beating. The monster is well-rendered, at least, but it's mostly the sort of action that may not actively offend the viewer who has seen a lot of the stuff rather than the sort that gets that viewer excited.

It does okay on the cast, despite the lack of a noteworthy villain. I suspect that there are few actors who see movies like this as getting paid to LARP more than Vin Diesel, ; the guy just seems comfortable both fighting CGI monsters and reciting fantastical dialogue the way few others are. Michael Caine classes the joint up before departing to cash his paycheck after relatively few days of shooting, although Elijah Wood has some wit in how he fills the void. Rose Leslie gives decent reluctant partner, especially when she's given the chance to do more than snap at people.

It's a good enough group and a solid enough foundation that, despite this movie not being particularly good, I wouldn't mind seeing another, providing it includes a better villain and better-staged action. TV series often need time to settle in and this does seem more like a pilot than a stand-alone feature.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=28066&reviewer=371
originally posted: 10/28/15 10:23:53
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User Comments

1/24/16 Loopy More entertainment value than Spectre that's for sure, solid for a b movie 3 stars
11/12/15 M Bias, im a huge fan of Vin - cheesy plot/acting but hey its a movie about witches. 3 stars
10/26/15 Darkstar Really, really awful movie. Terrible cgi, vin diesel mumbles through his lines as usual. 1 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  23-Oct-2015

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Australia
  23-Oct-2015




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