Main cast: Vin Diesel (Kaulder), Elijah Wood (The 37th Dolan), Rose Leslie (Chloe), Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (Belial), Julie Engelbrecht (The Witch Queen), and Michael Caine (The 36th Dolan)
Director: Breck Eisner
Talk about a wasted opportunity. The Last Witch Hunter could have been an interesting action-packed urban fantasy flick, but it has a worthless script. Basically, in this one we meet Kaulder, a warrior who was cursed by his hated rival, the Witch Queen, after he administered the coup de grace on her. This was back in the old days, when witches under the rule of the Witch Queen openly walk the world and seek to destroy human beings because they were all evil and funny like that. Kaulder wanted to kill the Witch Queen to avenge his wife and kid, and well, he got what he wanted, but it came with a cost: in her dying breath, the Witch Queen cursed him to walk the world, never to die, and always be miserable and sad, that kind of thing.
For the last 800 years or so, Kaulder has been serving as a cop and executioner for the Axe and Cross, an association affiliated with the church (I’m not sure which church or whether the Pope is involved, so don’t ask me). His assistant is always a Father Dolan, named after the priest who fought by his side during his fateful encounter with the Witch Queen. When the movie opens, the 36th Dolan opts for retirement, and introduces a much younger man – known as the 37th Dolan, of course – as his replacement to Kaulder. The 37th Dolan is more in tune with modern technology, which makes him a good match to Kaulder – who likes fast cars, faster stewardesses, and such. Even better, the 37th Dolan is determined to be loyal to Kaulder because the man once saved this Dolan’s life when this Dolan was a child.
Well, the new partnership will be tested when the 36th Dolan ends up dead – apparently from a heart attack on the very night of his last day at work. Kaulder quickly discovers that the old man’s death is due to necromancy, the foulest kind of magic, and someone is clearly out to get… something. But what? What does the 36th Dolan know that will attract such attention? Also, the old man isn’t really dead – just placed under a deadly spell that renders him out of consciousness, but the old man will die in two days if Kaulder doesn’t kill the person who cast the spell by the end of the second day. He decides to seek the help of a witch, Chloe, only to make her the target of the enemy’s wrath too.
The plot sounds interesting, and there are many intriguing elements in this movie, such as how magic works in this setting. However, the pacing off the movie feels off. All the way to the end, the movie feels draggy and dull, partly because the script allows Kaulder to be so capable and amazing that there isn’t much suspense in the supposedly more dramatic moments. Of course Kaulder will win – he’s freaking Vin Diesel, after all, and Vin Diesel is basically the new Steven Seagal, only with actual muscles. Oh no, is Kaulder in danger, oh wait, I blink and the next instance he has kicked all the bad guys’ rear ends. How exciting, yawn – moving on now.
The characters are all so flat and underwhelming. I’ve already mentioned Kaulder, who is a blander version of that single character Vin Diesel plays in pretty much all his movies. Elijah Wood is completely wasted in his role, and Michael Caine is, like Vin Diesel, plays the same character he has been playing in movies of this sort. Same mannerisms, inflection, and all. Rose Leslie has the thankless role of the female sidekick who is basically a damsel in distress pretending to be a kick-ass lady as well as someone who “understands” Kaulder and wants him to be never alone again, ugh. The villains are even worse – they have no context, no personality, nothing – just things to be beaten and destroyed by Vin Diesel. The 37th Dolan’s betrayal of Kaulder is so abruptly inserted that it feels like a plot twist pulled out of the scriptwriters’ rear end rather than a natural progression of the plot.
And then there is the CGI, which is used to create special effects that are so artificial-looking that there are times when this move resembles a very expensive episode of Scooby-Doo. I hope the folks behind this movie didn’t spend too much money on the CGI, because there are times when it’s hard to make out what is happening in a scene as things are just flying all over the place and I’m too busy rolling to my eyes at some of the really fake-looking “scary” moments in this movie.
The Last Witch Hunter is, all in all, a dire kind of movie that has many things to succeed, only to fall flat instead on its face at the end of day.