Cast: Vin Diesel, Elijah Wood, Rose Leslie, Julie Engelbrecht, Michael Caine
Director: Breck Eisner
Writers: Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama, Burk Sharpless
This is a boy-pandering fantasy-action film if I’ve ever seen one. The Last Witch Hunter is one of those typical fantasy-action films we see every year targeted towards 12-year-old boys, much like The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Van Helsing and more recently I, Frankenstein (a film so generic and forgettable I had to google it just now to remember that it existed). These are the films that pander to boys by offering them monsters, explosions, swords, guns and gritty PG-13 violence as substitutes for character and plot. Full disclosure: I’m saying this as someone who was 12 and 13 when LXG and Van Helsing came out respectively and thought they were both bloody awesome. I know better now. All I’m saying is that, while I personally found this film to be generic, predictable and stupid, I can still completely understand why teenage boys might enjoy it.
The titular witch hunter is Kaulder (Vin Diesel) who 800 years ago was cursed with eternal life by the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) before vanquishing her. Today there is a truce between the witches and the humans and so Kaulder’s job is basically to police them if they ever step out of line. When his keeper, the priest Dolan (36th of that name) (Michael Caine) dies under mysterious circumstances, Kaulder and the 37th Dolan (Elijah Wood) suspect that he was murdered by witches and find traces of dark magic that Kaulder hasn’t seen since his encounter with the Witch Queen. Believing the Witch Queen’s return to be imminent Kaulder sets out to prevent this impending doom with the aid of Dolan and a rogue witch called Chloe (Rose Leslie).
This film is silly and nonsensical but, for its target audience, it’s the good kind of silly and nonsensical. The story doesn’t have to make sense if all you’re looking for is some action and badassery and The Last Witch Hunter has plenty of both. Vin Diesel plays his typical physically-imposing, gruff, badass action hero and carries the film well enough as he wanders between action scenes. The fight scenes themselves are pretty fun and even sometimes creative given the use of magic and whatnot but nothing particularly new. One thing I can say about this film though is that it was short. I really do mean that as a compliment. When I realised what kind of film I was in store for I thought I would have to endure at least two hours (if not more) of its absurdities and was pleasantly surprised to see that it was over after a merciful hour and forty minutes. Another thing I liked is that it never took itself too seriously. It tries to have fun with its rather daft concept and even manages to score a couple of laughs here and there. Whatever its (many) faults may be, I can still admire it for embracing its own absurdity (to a mild extent at least) and letting itself have a bit of fun with it.
However anyone who is looking for something more than mindless action and some silly, ridiculous fun will not find it in this film. The story is a jumbled mess, the characters are forgettable, the mythology seems like it was being made up as the production went along and the climax is a magnificent let-down (assuming you were invested enough to have actually been built-up). The plot for the most part is fairly predictable and is thus lacking in tension, something that was already lacking given that the immortal Kaulder is unable to die. It was a story that was so positively overwhelmed by such a sheer amount of plot-holes and lapses in logic that I was pretty close to giving up until the third act swooped in to let me know that it was nearly over. So rushed was the film’s third act that the film even felt the need to include a plot twist that comes completely out of nowhere, does not make any semblance of sense if you think about everything that came before and serves absolutely no purpose except to extend the fight for another five minutes. Once that’s done it builds up to an ending so convoluted that they might as well have written the words ‘please give us a sequel’ on the screen in giant neon letters. Honestly I was actually quite entertained by how clumsy the film’s ending was.
All in all, The Last Witch Hunter is a really bad film. What amuses me though is that if I were ten years younger I probably would have loved it. It has all the nonsensical action, age-appropriate violence and silly visuals that I was into at that age. It even has the impossibly badass Vin Diesel doing what he does. If there are any boys out there who are also into that kind of stuff, then The Last Witch Hunter is the film for them. It is a film that panders to everything they love at that age when they are young enough to fall for those kinds of tricks. I’ve given this film my lowest possible rating because there is simply nothing redeeming about it to justify anything higher. It is a bad, stupid, ridiculous film and young boys will love it.