You know, The Last Witch Hunter ain’t all that bad. At least from my point of view, it’s already a lot better than I thought it would be.
I hadn’t seen any trailers for it and thought it would be along the shitty lines of something like Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters, except with Vin Diesel doing deep-voiced Vin Diesel things — ie, act suave and charismatic with a smug smile and the donning same expression no matter what role or situation he’s in. By the way, I like Vin Diesel.
And so I was kinda shocked to see that The Last Witch Hunter: 1. has a sensational supporting cast that includes Game of Thrones‘ Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood and Michael Caine; 2. is much scarier than your average fantasy action film, with legit grossness and horror; 3. doesn’t take itself 100% seriously, with some solid one-liners that makes fun of its own ridiculousness; and 4. features some pretty awesome, albeit video-gamey action sequences.
As a purely visual experience, The Last Witch Hunter rocks pretty hard. Superb character and monster designs, cool weapons and special effects, all combined with slick stylistic direction and choreography — at times it felt as though I was watching a sick video game cut scene (there’s even one outdoor scene that looked like it was ripped right out of The Last of Us). It’s something the sweaty nerds will definitely appreciate and enjoy.
On the other hand, The Last Witch Hunter offers very little in terms of an engrossing story — or just any story. I’ll admit I wasn’t paying full attention, but it just seemed like the plot was far too convoluted for its own good. I didn’t get all of it, nor was I interested in getting all of it. Can’t we just see Vin Diesel defy death a hundred times a minute rather than him trying to convince us he can act?
Speaking of acting, the performances are solid — including Diesel — though I felt Rose Leslie, as hard as she tries, doesn’t quite fit as well as she should have. While there is potential for good chemistry with Diesel, right now it’s a little rough around the edges and can come across as awkward.
The result is an uneven and ultimately empty experience that is more eye candy than anything else. There are moments of visual awesomeness that brought out the inner gamer in me but also moments of plodding plot development that made me yawn. There are occasional ripping one liners but also occasional excessive seriousness that overshadows the tone, and a proper balance is never achieved.
Still, I’d put The Last Witch Hunter in the “better than anticipated” category thanks to its aesthetic qualities. If only it were a little simpler and less serious, the film could have ended up being a fun, campy popcorn ride. Vin Diesel has already announced that a sequel is in the works, so hopefully they can get the narrative right next time without sacrificing the visuals, action and horror.
3 stars out of 5