A witch hunter cursed with immortality by the Witch Queen (a heavily CGI’d Julie Engelbrecht), Kaulder (Vin Diesel) has spent the last 800 years prioritizing his duty to the Axe and Cross. The last of his kind, he makes sure to go after only those witches who break the truce and harm humans. When a witch attacks his handler and friend Dolan 36th (Michael Caine), Kaulder goes after him with the help of his newest handler, Dolan 37th (Elijah Wood) and a peaceful witch named Chloe (Rose Leslie, Game of Thrones). But in being forced to remember something about his “death” all those years ago, Kaulder must battle someone he thought was dead to save humanity from being wiped away by the purest of evil.
Director Breck Eisner (Sahara) brings to life a world he and writers Burk Sharpless, Cory Goodman and Matt Sazama desperately want you to be a part of. The film definitely has a tone akin to last year’s Dracula Untold (which Sharpless and Sazama penned) and the terrible I, Frankenstein. What do all three films have in common? The ability to make a fantastical world of witches and other like-minded beings (because really, how many of them want to take over?) feel utterly contrived. These worlds should be astounding and what’s more is that you should want to feel like a part of it, like Middle Earth or the wizarding world of Harry Potter, but to no avail.
Having said that, the CGI isn’t bad and the dream-walking scenes are beautiful and distinct, but the story and characters are decidedly lacking. To start with, the film opens with a scene that has so much going on that it will take you a minute to wrap your head around what it is your seeing because the camera angles keep changing so fast. One of the most tiresome tropes of these man-on-a-mission types of films is the constant flashbacks to the dead wife and/or child. Here, we have both, and it is overused and, in this case, contrived to give Diesel’s character emotional baggage. But there’s really no reason for it to be there and it is a failed attempt to give the audience a backstory that isn’t needed.
You can accuse Diesel of playing an immortal version of Dominic Cooper, his character from The Fast and the Furious films, and you would be exactly right. His character is dry and the line delivery flat. Rose Leslie is the only character in the film that has anything resembling a personality. However, she and Diesel have no chemistry, which especially shows when the writers attempt for them to care for each other. Will they get together? Does Kaulder finally have something to live for? All are questions you don’t need the answer to as there is no character depth for you to care what happens to anybody in the film. Even the story arcs for Elijah Wood and Michael Caine’s characters are unremarkable and ultimately boring.
The Last Witch Hunter has a lot of issues character and story-wise. It does have its entertaining moments here and there, but it starts off a bit slow and never quite gains the momentum that it needs. The finale is anticlimactic and dull, a few twists are thrown in for “aha!” moments, but you will see them coming from a mile away. There is nothing about the story that could be considered exciting, and besides some of the more well-done visuals, the characters’ mission isn’t something you can get behind or be enthralled with. Underwhelming and bland, The Last Witch Hunter is another throwaway film you won’t remember at all by this time next year.
Release Date: October 23, 2015 | Director: Breck Eisner | Screenwriters: Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless | Cast: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, Michael Caine, Ólafur Darrí Ólaffson, Julie Engelbrecht | Genre: Fantasy, Action, Adventure | MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images