CineMarterThe Last Witch Hunter - Vin Diesel's D&D-Inspired Actioner Crashes and Burns
Directed by Breck Eisner. Produced by Mark Canton and Bernie Goldmann. Written by Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama, and Burk Sharpless. Release date: October 23, 2015.
Somewhere around the time that The Fast and the Furious was taking off, it was decided that Vin Diesel would be the next big leading man. But after xXx, A Man Apart, the second Riddick movie, The Pacifier, and Babylon A.D., that thought has curtailed a little bit. However, now with Furious Seven and Guardians of the Galaxy each making a boatload of money, it appears that someone's willing to take a second shot at this proposition. Hence, The Last Witch Hunter, which sees Diesel play immortal witch hunter Kaulder - based on his Dungeons & Dragons character - no, really - and has him trying to save the world from a plague that may wipe out humanity.
Let's back up for a second. 800 years earlier, Kaulder killed the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht), who cursed him with immortality. In the years that followed, rules were established, and only witches who broke those rules would be hunted. Kaulder became the biggest enforcer, although witches were no longer being slaughtered; instead, they'd be imprisoned for all eternity. To stop the sinister plot to unleash a human-killing plague, he has to team up with a young priest who acts as his handler, Dolan the 37th (Elijah Wood), as well as a good witch, Chloe (Rose Leslie).
If that all seems incredibly generic, it's because it is. There's absolutely nothing to differentiate The Last Witch Hunter from movies like Seventh Son or Season of the Witch, except that a great chunk of it takes place in modern day New York City, during which time the chance of an action scene occurring is about as likely as finding a rat-free NYC alleyway. Instead, much of the action takes place in either fantasy dream sequences, or in areas that look as if they could have been around 800 years ago. You're not going to get a hunter-witch battle in the middle of Times Square, for example.
The fantasy sequences are overloaded with CGI, but then so are all of the action scenes. Most of the villains Kaulder fights are CGI monstrosities, although the CGI isn't very good. Most of the fights take place in the dark in hopes of hiding this. They're also choppy and uninteresting, particularly because, for much of the film, Kaulder literally cannot lose. He can't die, so why should we become invested in a battle that's so one-sided it's not fair? The way to counter this is to put his partners in danger instead, but that doesn't happen much, if at all. He loses his immortality before the climactic battle, but by then it was too late.