I was a little afraid of The Last Witch Hunter, to be totally honest. As usual, before seeing a film in theaters, I checked up on it online to see what people were saying, and, sorta to my surprise, this movie was getting really low ratings. Now, I expect fantasy movies to get low critical scores as they’re usually pretty simple, but even the average audience scores were really low – significantly lower than the abysmal Terminator: Genisys which I watched later the same day on Redbox. So there was definitely an element of unease; an expectance that, despite really being excited by the trailer, this movie would be sub-par. What I got was a film that was flawed, possibly due to meddling in the script, but was ultimately very good. Let me back up a little bit. I see I have everyone’s attention. Good. The film starts with a bang, bringing in Vin Diesel’s (who looks damn good for being almost fifty) character of the Viking witch hunter Macklemore Dieselsson – I mean, Kauldur, along with a small party of other hunters (this, I presume, was before he became the last one). Together they hunt down the Witch Queen, who has gone on a full-out genocidal rampage against humankind. Because obviously, that’s not good. Right away I noticed how amazing the sets were, which is something that’s consistent through the film. My guess would be that they blended practical and CG effects for the backgrounds, though I could be wrong on that – but nonetheless, the locations in this film are both artistically inspired and beautifully realized, which got me really excited for this movie maybe not being bad after all. He’s just pumped, he bought some shit from the thrift shop. The initial skirmish between the witch hunters and the Witch Queen is actually very short, more a prologue than anything else, but it sets the rest of the story up to take place. After apparently defeating the Witch Queen, the seemingly-suicidal Kauldur (plagued by the death of his wife and daughter, who appear to have died from an actual plague) is cursed with eternal life. This was scary for me at first, because I’ve seen this character before: the angsty immortal who would have killed himself long ago were he not driven by hatred and a single-minded need to hunt and kill those who destroyed his life in the first place. Seriously, who hasn’t seen that character done a thousand times before? To my surprise and delight, this isn’t the character we got. Yes, Kauldur’s an immortal who would give up his eternal life if he could. Yes, he’s an indestructible badass who’s grown just a little too dependent on his inability to die. Yes, he’s become a feared boogeyman by the witches he hunts. It’s the angst and hate that we get to skip out on, and it was a breath of fresh air the first time I got to see Diesel’s witch hunter smile – a little part of me starting to feel more comfortable that we might just get through this thing okay. The character of Kauldur himself is simple but enjoyable – he’s had a long time (eight hundred years) to adjust. He’s put most of his pain behind him, and he appreciates what he has. Takes his job very seriously when it demands it, but isn’t above showing as much mercy as possible to inexperienced witches who don’t understand the power they wield. Fill in the cracks with a healthy dose of pure, unfiltered Vin Diesel, who is starting to rival Christopher Walken in his ability to tempt the director to just go “You know what? Audiences are probably mostly coming for Vin Diesel. So just be Vin Diesel. Be as Vin Diesel-ish as you possibly can.” “…My time has come.” And you know what? I’m fine with that! I like Vin Diesel! And if you, also, enjoy Vin Diesel, well, this movie has plenty of him in it. We leap forward in time, by an increment of the aforementioned eight hundred years, to modern times – Kauldur is the Last Witch Hunter (“Roll credits.”) and has grown to become very, very good at what he does. And… this is when the movie grinds to a screeching halt. I mentioned early on that while I really liked this movie, it definitely had some flaws, and they all rear their head right here and right now, in the post-prologue first act. We’re introduced to Michael Caine’s character as Kauldur’s personal chronicler, and after a brief conversation between him and Kauldur, I became certain that he was going to be the film’s Mr. Exposition, here to bring the action to a halt in order to explain how the world works and the things that we should know. I was wrong. The true evil had a much younger, softer face. The horror. Michael Caine is “killed” very quickly, replaced by his… well, his actual replacement, Elijah Wood, who makes every scene he’s in worse. Not that it’s him, though he does appear to be phoning it in a bit, but it’s his character and his dialogue – Wood’s “37th Dolan” exists to ask annoying questions, give annoying know-it-all answers, and make as much exposition occur as he possibly can. Speaking of exposition, though, I have to wonder if it was really necessary. Thinking about it after watching it, I feel like the vast majority of the heavy exposition could have just been… cut out. Not replaced by something more streamlined, but actually removed. Not only does it bog the movie down considerably, a lot of it feels unneeded or outright inaccurate. For instance, it’s mentioned a few times, then painstakingly shown, that witch magic plays to the traditional four elements (air, earth, fire, and water, for those who have never seen a movie or TV show in their entire life ever). In practice, the magic we actually see is primarily based in illusions, alchemy, and death magic, with most symbolism relating to them focusing more on plants (specifically vines and herbs) and insects (specifically flies, butterflies, and worms). To me, it seems like script-meddling – the original screenwriter featured a very distinct and enjoyable mythology that actually stood out really well as something that may not have been unique, but was at least fresh and well-realized, only to have several heavy, expositional scenes written over it that introduced a more clichéd type of world without following through. For the sake of enjoying the movie, I elected to ignore all of the fire and water stuff, because it never really felt like it belonged in the movie at all. As opposed to this thing which TOTALLY DOES. After this glitch, however, the film hits full stride with the introduction of Rose Leslie’s character, who is absolutely precious as fuck. She brings a more spunky, urban twist to her character on Game of Thrones, similar enough to feel familiar and natural but unique enough not to feel like a clone, and she is a greatly appreciated addition to the cast (and a fantastic supporting character, which was desperately needed when Elijah Wood was quickly phased out… actually, more and more I’m starting to suspect that this film was the battlefield for some kind of script-war). Once she arrives, things get moving and they don’t slow down until the end of the film. The Last Witch Hunter boasts fantastic style, amazingly designed sets, distinct costumes, and some genuinely enjoyable characters (even relatively minor characters, such as Belial and Ellic, walk the beautifully scrumptious line between bearably hammy and unbearably hammy). Action scenes are really lofty and enjoyable, and while the story isn’t the most complex or deep I’ve ever seen, it’s also far from the most simple. Middling-quality dialogue combined with competent acting and a high-personality performance from Diesel make this really enjoyable all the way through, and it shows enough intelligence to take the occasional jab at a film trope or two. “Yeah bitch, my hair is a SPINE.” If you saw the trailer for this and it looked cool to you, try not to let its primarily negative reception set you off. I’m not even going to go so low as to say you have to “turn off your brain” or any bullshit like that – yeah, this movie’s not perfect, it has flaws and it seems like it may have really struggled in the production, but its flaws weren’t anything I couldn’t overcome. It’s a visually impressive and overall enjoyable action-fantasy film that you should check out if you get the chance. Share this:TweetShare on TumblrLike this:Like Loading... Related Leave a Reply Cancel ReplyYou must be logged in to post a comment.