What’s this…a Vin Diesel vehicle that doesn’t feature an actual vehicle? This scenario would surely be a sign of the apocalypse, but fortunately (or unfortunately – depending on how you look at it), The Last Witch Hunter manages to fit a witch-hunting hot rod into its kitchen-sink of a story. (Although it is not mentioned in the film, my guess is that the car is actually called “Dragula.”)
If you mashed-up Batman with a run-of-the-mill sword & sorcery story you would probably end up with something like this film. And why not, especially when you’ve got Michael Caine, who played Alfred in three Batman movies, playing the 36th “Dolan,” which is the Last Witch Hunter version of Batman’s Alfred?
Then while you’re at it let’s throw in Elijah Wood as the 37th Dolan (or Robin, as it were) and Rose Leslie as a redheaded witch sidekick (or the Batgirl role) named Chloe. And let’s have our hero, Kaulder (Diesel), operate out of a closet (cave) where he keeps all his cool witch-hunting toys and weapons.
The story: Eight-hundred years ago Kaulder’s family was killed by witches and the hero joins a band of barbarian types who go after the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht), seeking revenge. Kaulder kills the Queen but is simultaneously cursed with ever-lasting life, which he uses to go after the dark witches through the ages until modern times, when he meets Chloe and teams up to stop the dark side from resurrecting their evil matriarch.
It’s almost as if the director, Breck Eisner (The Crazies), and The Last Witch Hunter writers, Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless, put together a story inspired by Batman and Lord of the Rings, and then, in some twisted circle of pop culture life, convinced those movies’ stars to be in a half-assed homage to those infinitely better films.
If I’ve learned one thing about Vin Diesel it’s that he’s at his best when he is unseen and only speaks three words (see Guardians of the Galaxy). There is just something about his stoic swagger that in unconvincing and aggravating to me. I know he has his fans, and if you are one then I’m certain you’ll enjoy this movie a lot more than I did, otherwise, you are in for a ridiculous ride.
On the positive side there are some decent special effects in this movie and a monstrous character called “The Sentential” that is pretty cool. Rose Leslie (who you might recognize as Jon Snow’s love interest, Ygritte, from Game of Thrones) does a good job and is very easy on the eyes – which is a huge plus and helps to balance out the painful eye-rolling induced by Diesel.
Typically, the best you can hope for in a film like this is that, despite its faults, it remains a fun and brainless two-hour time-killer that a large bag of delicious popcorn can make somewhat tolerable. Unfortunately, this one missed the mark on the fun part. Grade: 3/10
Photos © 2015 Lionsgate