Editor’s Note: The Last Witch Hunter opened in wide theatrical release October 23, 2015.
Vin Diesel is a man driven entirely by passion. Not particularly a passion for artistic achievement, but a passion for those around him, and the people he works with. His family, as he charmingly describes them. It’s as if he perpetually exists at a Thanksgiving dinner table. He’s so astonishingly thankful for everybody in his life, and all of those who brought him there. It’s an admirable and endearing quality, one that draws many, including myself, to his films like metal to a magnet. Though, despite the sheer passion that defines him, he doesn’t always choose the best projects. So, with that in mind, walking into a Vin Diesel film is essentially a gamble, and watching The Last Witch Hunter is like winning a very underwhelming sum at a slot machine.
This very long-winded but inventive story would, in a perfect world, make for a gleefully absurd romp. . .
Here we bear witness to the antics of Kaulder, a brawny, bald-headed, immortal witch hunter played by none other than Vin Diesel. The film’s opening scene portrays Kaulder and his band of witch-hunting cohorts in the dark ages, attempting to kill the queen of witches, who is very aptly titled “The Witch Queen.” Kaulder succeeds in this goal after a hefty struggle, but just before finishing the job, the Witch Queen curses him with eternal life. Cut to present day, and Kaulder is still hunting witches, because after all, he is the last witch hunter. But when his close associate, the Dolan 36th (played pointlessly by Michael Caine), is found dead, Kaulder teams up with the Dolan 37th (Elijah Wood) and nonviolent witch Chloe (Rose Leslie) to catch the culprit. Soon, after a series of events, the Witch Queen rises once again and threatens to rein terror upon the Earth.
Moments that could be great, like Kaulder riding atop a horrible looking CGI bone monster with his sword in hand, are dampened because Vin Diesel’s facial expressions are too stone-like to accentuate the silliness.
This very long-winded but inventive story would, in a perfect world, make for a gleefully absurd romp, but sadly this possibility is buried under self-serious mediocrity that very sporadically allows for fun to occur. Mostly, exposition is all that populates a scene, as Kaulder will describe anything from his legacy to the fundamentals of magic so the supporting characters will understand whatever the hell’s going on. Vin Diesel does manage to keep everything far from being torturous, providing a likable performance, though other actors would likely have assisted in guiding this project toward the self-delighting silliness it was built for. Moments that could be great, like Kaulder riding atop a horrible looking CGI bone monster with his sword in hand, are dampened because Vin Diesel’s facial expressions are too stone-like to accentuate the silliness. If someone like Channing Tatum starred, perhaps, though we wouldn’t receive a masterpiece by any means, we’d receive something that lived up to its strange and rambunctious potential.
However, the cinematography, though pretty shaky during action, is very sharp otherwise. And much of The Last Witch Hunter’s world feels highly original despite it, according to Vin Diesel, being somewhat inspired by Dungeons and Dragons. That’s worthy of praise. But taking all aspects into consideration, it’s a film that isn’t a ton of fun to watch. There are other, more self-assured fantasy adventures to sink your teeth into instead.
Heavy on exposition and with a lack of action, The Last Witch Hunter lacks confidence and isn't much fun to watch.