The Last Witch Hunter: Film Review
Cast: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Michael Caine, Elijah Wood
Director: Breck Eisner
Mixing up a bit of Harry Potter, some of Men In Black co-existence and Vin Diesel's trademark gruffness, The Last Witch Hunter is a CGI genre fest that could have set up an interesting universe.
Diesel is Kaulder, who managed to slay an all-powerful Queen Witch back in the Dark Ages and staved off the unleashing of the Black Death. But in doing so, the Witch cursed him to be immortal, preventing him from joining his slaughtered family.
Now in the present day, an uneasy truce exists between witches and Kaulder, the Last (and only) Witch Hunter. However, when Kaulder's long time friend and watcher Dolan the 36th (played as the sole exposition deliverer by Michael Caine) is mysteriously offed, Kaulder uncovers a conspiracy to resurrect the Witch and her plans for world destruction.
With the usual Diesel acting flair, The Last Witch Hunter remains a film that could have been so much more, and one which proffers so much potential for a wider universe and tapestry.
Steeped in a mythology that has a depth but little breadth thanks to endless exposition, and touches of Supernatural the TV series, Eisner's managed to pull together a film that's not quite sure what it wants to be. Channeling a mismatched buddy cop vibe when Diesel's Kaulder teams up first with a new Dolan (Elijah Wood), who's clearly out of his depth when it comes to tackling matters and then a mortal enemy of a witch (played by Game of Thrones' Rose Leslie, who brings some light and spunkiness to the proceedings), the film struggles to balance its seriousness with its attempts to throw in some truly laughable dialogue and one-liners.
Shrouded in darkness, the action sequences never really deliver any real punch as this sub-par Buffy The Vampire Slayer rip-off continues - and not one set piece stands out. Although he struggles with the more emotive parts of the film, Diesel's watchable enough (and even the makers of the film are smart / silly enough to give him a fast car to prowl around in as a nod to his famed character) but wandering around like Blade and dipping into his own memories, complete with boggly eyes doesn't really further the plot at all.
While the CGI is clearly where the money has been spent on this B-movie and the evocation of the witch's world is a relatively intriguing one that could have done with some more depth to flesh it out. Our very own Rena Owen makes a strong lead as the head of the Witch's council but has little to do except deflect Misfits and This Is England star Joseph Gilgun's barb that they look like "a horrible band from the 80s". It's this kind of under-writing that plagues the film that aims for low-hanging fruit and succeeds; supporting characters are barely sketched so that when the emotional moments come, they fail to land properly.
All in all, The Last Witch Hunter is not campy enough to be a classic and not strong enough to resonate. It ends with the promise of more films to come, but one hopes that the only prophetic part of the title of The Last Witch Hunter proves to be the word "last".