How did Nicolas Cage pass this one up? Vin Diesel, Elijah Wood, Rose Leslie and Academy Award winner Michael Caine star in The Last Witch Hunter.
Director – Breck Eisner
Screenplay – Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama & Burk Sharpless
Producer – Mark Canton & Bernie Goldmann
Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images
Centuries ago, the Black Death – yes, the Bubonic Plague – was actually the work of the evil Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht). Not willing to go down without a fight, an army of witch hunters, one of whom is the valiant warrior named Kaulder (Vin Diesel), rises up against the witch. Kaulder is successful in bringing down the queen, but just before going down in a blaze of glory, she curses him to walk the Earth for ages upon ages as an immortal.
And in doing so, curses us viewers with an additional 90 minutes of run time.
Now, in present day, Kaulder is the last of his kind remaining. The witches have forged a truce with the humans that as long as their powers aren’t used to harm the humans they’ll be left alone. Those that break the truce are sentenced to the “Witch Prison” (nice to know the screenwriters took a day off there). All seems fine and well; however, on the eve of his retirement, Kaulder’s sidekick Dolan 36th (Michael Caine) warns him that dark forces are attempting to resurrect the Witch Queen who seeks revenge against the man who destroyed her long ago.
The most surprising element of The Last Witch Hunter is that good ole Nic Cage is nowhere to be seen here ’cause this turd is right up his alley. Either he was unaware of this film when the script was getting sent to Vin Diesel, or someone finally wrote a film so bad even he had to say no.
I’m going with the former. I’ve seen Season of the Witch, The Wicker Man remake and Outcast. Clearly, in Cage’s mind, no film that bad exists.
Throughout his career, about 98% of Vin Diesel’s films not to have either “Fast” or “Furious” in the title have been utter failures either critically, financially or both (that 2% would be Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan and Find Me Guilty, considered by many to feature Diesel’s strongest performance). The Last Witch Hunter continues that unfortunate trend for Diesel.
Ranging in appearance from his usual cue ball self to a massively bearded, under-cutted guitarist for Five Finger Death Punch, and delivering his trademark “Gurga-gurga-guuuurrrrg!” stomach-growling line delivery, Diesel is trapped in a woefully ugly looking, nonsensical bore of a film. All the trademark rugged charm in the world (which he does have when utilized right) can’t save this wretched pile of mythological excrement.
Charm or no charm, it’s not that we should’ve expected performance art from Diesel. He’s playing the same deep-voiced mumbling hero he’s built his career on. On the other hand, you expect something a little better from Michael Caine and Elijah Wood. The artist formerly known as Frodo is wasted in a whiny sidekick role who’s as useful as Lindsay Lohan’s AA sponsor. With two Oscar trophies on his mantle, Michael Caine has the most esteemed resume, but Jaws: The Revenge alone should tell you how willing he can be for the right price. Caine disappears for a good portion of the second-act, and I’m assuming it was so he could dance his way to the bank to cash his paycheck. Game of Thrones star Rose Leslie escapes relatively unscathed as the only one of the cast who brings any sort of life to this mind-numbing slog.
The screenplay comes from the writers of Dracula Untold and Priest – so… yeah. This film took three writers to make. That’s one, two and three writers, yet this muddled story sounds like it was written by one chimp with half a brain. The tropes-riddled mythology is half-baked Dungeons & Dragons. Plot threads lead to nowhere (as do the ridiculously overused flashback sequences involving Kaulder’s wife and child). Kaulder shows no signs of fatigue or weary over the fact that he’s been lumbering through this world for seven centuries (the stewardess he banged can’t be that good), and not a single person seems to be worried that a witch summoned pestilence apocalypse has overtaken the city.
Just noticing it would’ve been a marked writing improvement. All some random average Joe has to do is look up and notice the swarm of flies hovering above them. Then again, the film does a terrible job of even acknowledging the outside world beyond Kaulder, the Dolans and the witches.
Most damning here is just how lusterless this is. You don’t expect a film titled The Last Witch Hunter to be cinematic art, but a little bit of entertainment value would go a long way in, at the very least, keeping me awake. Director Breck Eisner jam packs this film with CGI-heavy action sequence after CGI-heavy action sequence, but the film’s visual palette is so unappealingly murky and lacking in style (the witch prison or whatever it’s call is some hodgepodge of rocks and sticks with a fiery hemorrhoid for an entrance) that this can’t even pass for being mindless popcorn entertainment. Most of the time, I could barely discern what was even going on.
I guess they figured the gripping narrative and powerhouse performances would compensate for the film’s lack of style.
Prior to seeing this film, I received an email from the main theater I attend that I would receive 50 bonus membership points (for some perspective, 5 purchased movie tickets = 50 points) if I saw this film over the opening weekend. Even the theater must understand how crappy this movie is judging from the generous bribe they’re offering club members.
I’m now upping my price to 100 points for the sequel this film so shamelessly sets itself up for.
The Last Witch Hunter is too serious-minded to be campy entertainment, too dull to be unintentionally funny and far too unpleasant looking to be a mindless exercise in style over substance, though mindless on its own fits the film perfectly. Like Kaulder’s curse of immortality, you too will feel the sluggishly paced burden of eternity weigh down on you as the film laboriously plods through its convoluted mess of a plot all the way to the end.
I give The Last Witch Hunter a D- (½★).