Sunday, October 25, 2015

The Last Witch Hunter

Year: 2015
Director: Breck Eisner
Cast: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Michael Caine, Elijah Wood

Plot: After successfully killing the Witch Queen, witch hunter Kaulder was cursed with immortality. For 800 years he lives and keeps evil at bay, until he discovers a plan concocted by an evil witch to resurrect the Witch Queen, and he has to rely on a young witch to stop it.

Review: Action fantasy films, when done right, can be quite entertaining. But it's not easy for sure, since the various recent attempts have received critical beatings (Seventh Son, Dracula Untold, RIPD). Personally I thought Seventh Son wasn't bad overall, but I digress.

The Last Witch Hunter begins in medieval times, where a group of men do battle with the Witch Queen, who has cursed the land with the black plague. One of the men, Kaulder, successfully kills her, but not before she curses him with immortality. 800 years later, Kaulder is still keeping the peace for the Axe & Cross, a group sworn to protect the world from evil witches. When his longtime friend and sidekick, Dolan the 36th, is killed by witches, Kaulder looks into his death and discovers a plan to resurrect the Witch Queen. He has to rely on a young witch named Chloe to stop them.

With seemingly all the right elements in place, The Last Witch Hunter should have worked quite well. It surely looks like Keanu Reeves' Constantine in many aspects, but unfortunately it's not as memorable as that movie. Director Breck Eisner manages to keep the film competently moving for the most part, but the flawed script makes it hard for him to sustain the audience's attention. For one thing, the dialogue is cliched and the all too familiar plot of stopping an apocalypse is riddled with plot holes. The occasionally choppy CGI doesn't help either, and the fight scenes suffer from the same problem of being filmed too close.

But it's not all doom and gloom though. Underneath this mess lies a few gems here and there. The film has its entertaining moments, mostly when star Vin Diesel is in form and the CGI actually works. Diesel usually has plenty of screen presence and he brings it again here as Kaulder, though one gets the feeling he's much more comfortable playing Dom Toretto. Game Of Thrones' Rose Leslie gets the lion's share of support duty as Chloe, and acquits herself well despite not having much chemistry with Diesel. Elijah Wood is terribly wasted in a thankless role as Dolan the 37th, by being inserted in the film's climax as part of a plot twist that didn't work at all. Michael Caine is great of course as Dolan the 36th, but has much too little to do here (he does get a pretty funny line somewhere at the end involving a fly). The Witch Queen, played by Julie Engelbrecht, looks almost as bad as the CGI Scorpion King in The Mummy Returns, especially in the final fight. But credit goes to Olafur Darri Olafsson as witch lackey Belial, who is rather intimidating in size, along with a bass voice to match.

Judging by how the film ended, obviously Diesel is hoping to make a sequel. I won't lie, the potential is there, and if done right, it can be great. But it certainly isn't off to a very good start here. The Last Witch Hunter is overall fun but forgettable. (6/10)

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