'The Last Witch Hunter'
It goes without saying that a movie starring Vin Diesel as an immortal witch hunter will be stupid, but it shouldn’t be incompetent. And yet, ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ proves that even Diesel can still surprise us with new lows.
Simply put, this movie is horrible. It’s filled with an endless stream of action, visual effects and lightning quick edits to presumably appeal to the most ADD-addled member of the audience and still manages to be absolutely boring. The only good news to be taken from the mess is that it’s so unwatchable that the “Last” part of the title should be an accurate description of this would-be franchise-starter.
Things kick off in medieval times because ‘Game of Thrones’ is popular. The normally-sheared Vin Diesel appears with enough hair on his head and face to cover the rest of his career. He kills a queen witch and gains immortality, because why not? Then we jump ahead to the present day as Kaulder (his character) continues his witch-hunting ways alongside his priest/buddy/partner Dolan 36th (Michael Caine). Apparently, witches are allowed to secretly exist in this modern world because ‘Harry Potter’ is popular. But when witches get out of line, Kaulder does some damage and sends them to super-secret witch jail. He knows everything because he’s hundreds of years old and because he’s Vin Diesel.
Then Dolan dies and Kaulder knows something’s up. With new partner Dolan 37th (Elijah Wood), Kaulder hunts down witches to find out what happened. This leads him to forming a partnership with a good witch played by Rose Leslie who owns a bar and can enter people’s dreams, fantasies and hallucinations because A) it looks cool and B) it helps advance the plot. You might want to ask why any of this is happening. Don’t. It’s hard to believe the filmmakers ever figured that out.
It’s a cliché to say that most blockbusters are made for 12-year-old boys these days, even though it’s true. ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ goes a step further and feels like it was written by 12-year-olds on a manic sugar high. You can practically hear the playground pitch: “There’s this witch hunter and he’s like super powerful and, oh, immortal! So he fights witches, but doesn’t kill them. Except sometimes he does. And there’s this super evil witch he’s got to fight after fighting other regular witches. Plus there’s swords and stuff. It’s pretty cool. Let’s play!”
That’s about the level of thought that went into this nonsense. The script is so convoluted and slapdash that it’s hard to tell why anything is happening most of the time. Long-winded exposition scenes desperately try to make some sense of it, but none of that stuff ever works. Somehow, ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ makes the ‘Underworld’ series feel like Shakespeare, and that should have been impossible.
At the center are Vin Diesel and his ego. The guy coasts through this thing with gravelly tones and silky shirts, changing his expression from scowl to smile only when absolutely necessary. Diesel can be an amusing action star presence, but only when the project has a certain sense of humor that allows him to feel like a big cartoon. Despite the constant CGI slathered all over the screen, the movie never feels cartoony enough to be a fun romp. Instead, it’s a bunch of dour posturing punctuated by incomprehensible action scenes. The fact that Michael Caine and Elijah Wood showed up for this disaster only proves that they will take absolutely any job if the check clears. They add nothing to this swill beyond recognizable names to put on a poster. Somehow, Caine might finally have a new movie to beat out ‘Jaws: The Revenge’ for the bottom rung of his career.
At this point, you might want to say, “Look Phil, I get that ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ is idiotic, but I don’t care. I go to Vin Diesel witch-hunting movies for visual effects and action. If there’s even a beginning, middle and end to the script, I consider that a bonus.” First off, it’s very rude of you to say such a thing, but that’s OK. I get it. I walked into this movie primarily for the spectacle as well. Unfortunately, you won’t see much of it. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t a metric fuckton of action scenes crammed into this thing, because there are. It’s just that director Breck Eisner shoots so haphazardly and edits with such an insane rapid-fire rhythm that you can never really tell what’s happening until the bad guy is beaten up and Vin looks as satisfied as an actor can without actually changing his expression.
It’s clear that quite a bit of money was spent on this movie, but the individual images are rarely on screen long enough for that to register. ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ is one big, ugly, gray blur of stuff masquerading as a blockbuster. That’s a shame because there’s definitely a place at the movies for a Gothic action blockbuster franchise. Audiences just deserve one that was made with at least the suggestion of effort from the filmmakers, rather than whatever the hell this big dumb mess is supposed to be. Don’t just skip this turkey, if possible find a way to steal the DCP files and destroy them. ‘The Last Witch Hunter’ is not fit for human consumption, even ironically.