They are among us, yet always beyond our sight. Look into the crowd, and they will be there. You don’t know who they are and probably never will. This is because there are heroes in the shadows who will keep these monsters in line.
What are these monsters? That depends on who you ask. For Men in Black they were aliens. In Underworld they were vampires and werewolves. In Van Helsing, they were everything you could possibly imagine and more. For The Last Witch Hunter they are, as the title suggests, witches. Unfortunately this is one group of monsters that should have been kept hidden in the darkness.
The Last Witch Hunter is a fantasy-action film directed by Breck Eisner (Thoughtcrimes, The Crazies), and starring notable action star Vin Diesel of Fast and the Furious and Chronicles of Riddick fame. Also starring seasoned performers such as Elijah Wood (Lord of the Rings trilogy) and Michael Caine, the film certainly isn’t lacking in powerhouse casting.
With such a fun concept like underground, supernatural faction warfare and a seasoned action star as its protagonist, the film really ought to have been a surefire success. Despite these advantages, however, The Last Witch Hunter struggles to attain even mediocrity as it drowns audiences with tired, overused conventions and unsatisfying delivery.
The film tells the story of an immortal Witch Hunter named Kaulder, played by Diesel, who works with a secret underground organization whose duty is to prevent supernaturally-gifted witches from using their powers to wreak havoc in ordinary human society. Kaulder faces his own struggle with his inability to die after suffering a curse back in the Middle Ages.
He is followed by a chronicler known as a “Dolan,” who keeps records of the Witch Hunter’s exploits. After his current Dolan (Michael Caine) is killed by a witch on the eve of his retirement, Kaulder sets off with his new Dolan (Elijah Wood) to track down the killer of his longtime friend, embarking on a journey that will pull him deep down the rabbit hole of his blood-stained past.
The film suffers from a myriad of problems, many of which become apparent on the first few minutes. Every element of the film’s story, from its clichéd beginnings to its predictable conclusions, could be deduced by anyone who has seen a poster for an action movie before. The story takes absolutely no risks throughout the film’s runtime, raising the stakes only in the most predictable of ways and at the most expected moments.
The few times the plot attempts to produce a twist, the moment falls flat either because it is completely unsurprising or because it is of absolutely no significance. The villains are evil only for evil’s sake and the characters have little depth or characterization other than one or two clichéd character tropes.
Admittedly, poor storytelling is almost to be expected in a movie like this. Even among the films listed in this review’s introduction, few, if any, would ever be regarded for their elegant storytelling. That being said, for films of this nature to carry themselves they must compensate for their simplistic stories in other capacities.
The raw emotion of the film has to overshadow the lack of narrative depth, the characters must be unique and charismatic enough to mask their lack of dimension and the action itself has to be exhilarating enough to distract from the fact that, from a story perspective, very little is actually happening. Even if the film itself is simple, subtle complexities and raw emotional power have to arise from it in some capacity. The Last Witch Hunter has none of these virtues.
Rather than building anything interesting or engaging around its simplistic skeleton, the film relies on its concept alone to make itself seem appealing. Vin Diesel, while certainly not the most charismatic of performers, gives a showing that can only be described as utterly boring.
Rather than making Kaulder a cool character, or giving Vin Diesel cool things to do, the film gives the impression that the audience is supposed to accept that he is cool because he’s a witch hunter and witch hunters are cool, which simply is not enough. The action scenes, consequently, carry very little poignancy to them because, flashy as they can be, there is simply no reason to care about anything that is happening on screen.
The end result is a cold, lifeless film, that feels like it was based on some pre-existing action movie formula, rather than on any true heart.
The Last Witch Hunter is, at the end of the day, just as heartless as the antagonistic Witch Queen herself, and much less pleasant.
Despite holding all sorts of promise and having a premise that ought to have been enough to create a film that was at least mildly enjoyable, the film was unable to carry itself beyond the conceptual level, resulting in a product with so little depth that squeezing any enjoyment out of it is akin to squeezing water from a stone. Unless an audience is utterly desperate for an action fix, I cannot grant this film any sort of recommendation.
Overall rating: 2/10