“The Last Witch Hunter” was released theatrically across the country yesterday by Summit Entertainment.
800 years ago, a witch hunter named Kaulder (Vin Diesel) was cursed with immortality as he’s striking the killing blow to the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht). In the present day, Kaulder has united with The Axe and The Cross; a church devoted to assisting their “weapon.” The 36th Dolan (Michael Caine) has been with Kaulder for the past 50 years. Since he is on the verge of retirement, the 37th Dolan (Elijah Wood) is set to take his place, but the 36th Dolan dies suddenly one evening and Kaulder discovers that black magic is to blame. Something Kaulder can’t handle on his own is coming and he will need the assistance of a young witch named Chloe (Rose Leslie) to stop it; a collaboration Kaulder never thought would come to fruition.
“The Last Witch Hunter” has a screenplay originally written by Cory Goodman with re-writes by Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless. Goodman was responsible for “Priest” while Sazama and Sharpless have credit for writing last year’s “Dracula Untold.” The connection is that “The Last Witch Hunter” has exactly the same formula as those two films with just as much bad writing, horrid acting, and an extensive use of special effects to cover up all of its shortcomings.
The film takes a cue from “Game of Thrones” in its opening act and the comparisons will continue once Rose Leslie comes strolling into the picture. Elijah Wood takes center stage as the film’s comedic relief, but the humor of the film is awkward. It’s mostly silly one-liners and half-hearted quips that result in eye-rolling. Vin Diesel has a difficult time operating the on/off switch to trigger whatever acting talent he keeps buried deep inside his noticeably brawny frame. He under acts for most of the picture, but turns it all the way up to eleven when it’s time for him to yell at someone.
The ridiculous story of the film seems purposely ludicrous. Witches exist in the modern world and have learned to co-exist with humans, but have agreed to a truce that states they aren’t allowed to use magic against common man. So much of the film depends on magic and yet every witch in the film seems to do magic under the table. If an actual witch saw the film, it’s safe to say they would be offended. What’s the equivalent of “racist” or “sexist” to a witch? Sorcerist? “The Last Witch Hunter” is sorcerist towards witches.
Witches have to keep themselves hidden in the modern world. They watch out for each other and collaborate to not only keep their art alive but make a living as well. The film introduces a shady, nefarious character, who is also a witch, that begins killing witches left and right in order to send a message to Kaulder that his everlasting days are over. But the concept is even more nonsensical when it’s revealed what this villain is really up to. It’s as if the film takes the phrase “cracking a few eggs to make an omelette” too seriously.
The opening of the film sees Kaulder performing surgery on a pile of rocks while on an airplane barreling through a horrendous thunderstorm. Much of the film is devoted to Kaulder digging through his massive amount of memories in an attempt to uncover a secret buried within the moment of his “death.” To make matters worse, all the witches he’s captured over the years have been kept in witch prison (a term actually used in the film) just waiting for the right time to become a blatant plot device. Throw in some of Michael Caine’s obvious foreshadowing while Kaulder drinks himself stupid and you have a film seriously worthy of multiple facepalms during its 106-minute duration.
The film throws its $90 million budget around like it’s nothing. There isn’t a frame of this film that doesn’t feature truckloads of computer generation. To be fair, the special effects aren’t bad. They contribute the most during the film’s convoluted magic and dream sequences. The film is visually appealing in the sense that if you use your brain at any given moment it’s going to explode from the absurdity on screen.
“The Last Witch Hunter” clones the same, tired formula utilized in every supernatural action film that could possibly come to mind. The film is a carbon copy of similar films that came before it like “Constantine,” “Hellboy,” and “Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters.” Originality is sidelined while expensive CGI distracts you from the film’s cookie cutter storyline. “The Last Witch Hunter” isn’t just bad; it’s lazy.