Thursday, November 5, 2015

Movie Review #335: "The Last Witch Hunter" (2015)

Movie"The Last Witch Hunter"
Director: Breck Eisner
Rating: PG-13
Running Time: 1 hour, 46 minutes
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Kaulder (Vin Diesel) has been cursed with immortality by the Witch Queen. Over the past 800 years, he has been "The Weapon" of the Axe and Cross. His job is to enforce a treaty that was struck between witches and mankind long ago. Witches are forbidden to use their magic against humans, and any that do are hunted down by the immortal Kaulder. When Kaulder's handler, the 36th Dolan (Michael Caine) of the Axe and Cross, is cursed, Kaulder must find out why. 

Though "The Last Witch Hunter" has been universally trampled by the movie-going masses and critics alike, it actually has a pretty interesting premise. A man cursed with immortality uses his gift to protect mankind from the threat of dark magic. In many ways, this is like "Blade," except with witches instead of vampires. Witches have made a peace treaty with humans, promising to never use their magic against us, and in exchange, they are allowed to live among us without the threat of being killed. Most humans are unaware of their existence, except for an order known as The Axe and Cross, who are in charge of enforcing the treaty and hunting down witches and warlocks that violate it. Kaulder, played by Vin Diesel, is the immortal witch hunter the order refers to as 'The Weapon.' Kaulder is handled by members of the order known as the Dolan. Dolan 36 is played by Michael "I'll Take This Role" Caine. 36 is reaching retirement, and his replacement 37, played by Elijah Wood, is set to take his place. When the 36th Dolan is attacked and cursed, the first time this has happened to any of the Dolan, Kaulder must uncover what these witches were after with the help of Chloe, played by Rose Leslie, a witch and potion maker who can help him remember key details to aid his discovery.

It's probably easiest to talk about what we did like about "The Last Witch Hunter" since there's not really that much notable about it. There are some good elements in this film, one being its use of practical makeup work. The witches, in particular The Queen Witch, manage to be really cool looking despite being surrounded by hit or miss CGI everywhere else. The practical effects and makeup work stand out on their own and should have been implemented more because what little real effects were used wound up being our favorite part of the film. Rose Leslie, Kaulder's witch sidekick, offers up a good performance, though the inklings of a romance between 28-year old Leslie and 48-year old Vin Diesel feel forced, phony, and a little bit creepy. Elijah Wood is also good here, but his character is rather underutilized.

As a person, you gotta love Vin Diesel, but the guy isn't exactly known for his acting range. He can only make one face and speak one way, never once attempting to do something other than "Dominic Toretto." If it weren't for the suit and a quick opening scene where Kaulder dons a long beard and ye olden time hairstyle, this character would have been identical to Toretto in almost every other way. Though he's a lover of Dungeon and Dragons in real life, Vin Diesel is a complete miscast in "The Last Witch Hunter." He spends the entire movie trying to look serious, turning slowly towards the camera, and screaming whenever he gets the chance. We can't help but think what this film could have been with someone other than Diesel as the lead, someone with more capable hands for a role like this. Unfortunately, we will never know, and Vin Diesel's foreign box office power seems to have played a part in why he was ultimately picked for the role of Kaulder. He is such a strong powerhouse internationally that to have a lesser known, more fitting actor as the lead could have cost the overall box office of this film millions. Diesel's domestic drawing ability isn't nearly as strong as it is overseas, and this is even true with the "Fast and Furious" movies, therefore, we get stuck with him regardless of his actual versatility as an actor.

Minus him and some poorly done, overly fake video game-esque CGI, this could have been great, campily made movie and possible action/adventure/sci-fi/fantasy favorite, but once again, in an effort to target who knows at this point, it falls flat in many areas. The pacing is also an issue here. There are many names, legends, and lore to get through so audiences know just exactly what the hell is going on, that is, when it's not already assuming you know about things like magic insurance and the treaty between people and witches from the start. This eats away at prime time Diesel and co. could have been witch hunting and fighting, favoring these monotonous details over a longer, more thought out, less rushed conclusion. The final product of "The Last Witch Hunter" is ultimately met with squandered potential, even though the story isn't terrible. When you factor in a ridiculous twist on top of the elongated middle and rushed ending, we left the theater feeling very underwhelmed to say the least.

My Rating: 5/10
BigJ's Rating: 5.5/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.1/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 15%
Do we recommend this movie: Meh.

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