The Last Witch Hunter review: Exactly what you’re afraid it is
As much as I hate to admit it, as much as part of me absolutely refuses to accept the truth, if I’m being honest with myself, Vin Diesel is not a great actor. He plays one role well with slight variations, and that’s it.
He’s just such a likable guy though. He has charisma, and in real life he is such a geek that I will always root for him. Always.
That doesn’t mean he should be left to carry films entirely on his own though, especially films where the script is so deeply uninspired to begin with.
That’s The Last Witch Hunter. If that wasn’t clear.
If you’ve seen even a single trailer from the movie, you probably have a goo idea about what it’s like. It looks like a SyFy Channel original movie; even the name is pretty silly and feels like a B-movie. And if that’s what you’re hoping for, good news! You won’t be disappointed.
The film starts out well enough. You have a cheesy flashback that depicts a 13th century European-ish warrior named Kaulder (Diesel wearing a bad fake beard) and his team of red shirts questing off to kill the evil witch queen, creator of the Bubonic Plague. The result is a dead witch and a cursed witch hunter.
The film then cuts to the modern day, and it shows some signs of originality and life. Kaulder is basically the world’s supernatural enforcer, dedicated to stopping witches that use magic against other humans. He is fine with other witches, however, which shows the room for originality. It shuts that door soon enough, but it teases you with potential.
Diesel’s Kaulder initially defies expectations. Everyone around him is scared of the immortal, unkillable guy that has destroyed and imprisoned thousands of witches over the years. He’s kind of suave though, and provides some entertaining moments. It also allows Diesel to be charming.
The film also delves a bit into the world of magic. Locations are supernatural in decor, providing lush visuals. There’s even a witch bar that is stunning to look at. When the film delves into world building, it succeeds. When it goes into the deeper plot though, it becomes just another action pic where the almost inhumanly muscular hero shrugs off wounds that should probably kill him (even with magic involved), as he destroys stuff in the name of justice or something.
That happens at about the halfway point, which means The Last Witch Hunter is half of an alright film. Not great, but not terrible. It plays to Diesel’s strength, and supporting star Michael Caine is, well… he seems kinda bored, but he’s still Michael Caine. Michael Caine gotta eat.
The usually impressive Elijah Wood is kind of weird and criminally underused, and Rose Leslie is in over her head, but that’s more the fault of the script, which puts her in the boring role of the damsel in distress with a secret power.
There are some other people in the film too, but none of them are more than a plot point.
The story itself isn’t even really worth mentioning. Not because it would be a spoiler to do so, but mainly because it’s pretty simplistic. The evil witch queen is coming back to murder humanity because she’s eeeeeeeeevil, and only one man can stop her. It’s just boring and unoriginal.
Part of the fault is that The Last Witch Hunter is an action movie with surprisingly little action. Director Breck Eisner is done no favors by the script, but the action scenes are just bland. They are brief and not very interesting to see.
Part of it is that there’s no emotional connection to the action, because there’s really no depth to the characters. Leslie’s character starts out kind of funny, then dissolves into a non-entity. You kind of just forget she is there. With Diesel’s Kaulder though, the character is just dull. Diesel is charming enough in his typical way, but everything interesting about Kaulder is buried deep.
You have a guy that is cursed with immortality. He is a killer, probably the world’s greatest and most bloodied killer. He was also widowed 800 years earlier, and yet it still affects him. That’s sweet, but it’s boring.
You have a character that is unique in the world, and the film does nothing with that. In fact, it makes it illogically dull. Kaulder is just another superhero with Wolverine-like healing abilities. There are a few discussions about how he should embrace life more, but they’re just lip service. It doesn’t mean anything.
The whole thing takes no chances, and there’s no significant payoff. On the bright side, The Last Witch Hunter is completely inoffensive and unfulfilling, so if you see it, you won’t dislike it for long before forgetting it.
The Last Witch Hunter review conclusion
There are embers of an interesting movie buried deep at the core of The Last Witch Hunter, but the film completely falls apart half way through. It isn’t even a mess, it’s just hollow and forgettable, like someone just took an action movie randomizer and used it to make a weak action film.
The Last Witch Hunter is also a cowardly film. It has a few interesting ideas and hints at some good things, then just takes the easy, lazy path at every opportunity. There are already talks about a sequel, and the film does make absolutely sure you know there are places the story could go. It just doesn’t deserve to get there.
The Last Witch Hunter is rated PG-13, with a running time of 106 minutes.