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The Last Witch Hunter Review (2015)

Something that’s very interesting in our era of films is that almost all of our big stars are actually good actors. Think about it, the most well known actress is Jennifer Lawrence. She’s appeared in crowd pleasers like The Hunger Games and X-Men: First Class. Yet as she’s shown in the likes of Silver Linings Playbook, she is a good actress with proper chops. That’s unlike the likes of the 80s which saw Arnold Schwarznegger and Sylvester Stallone, who back then showed the acting range of a decapitated chicken. Vin Diesel is a throw back to this era, so can his film The Last Witch Hunter stand up in the 21st century?

In the Middle Ages, Caulder (Vin Diesel, Furious 7) is cursed by the witch queen to be immortal. Now in the modern day, he is part of an organisation which aims to keep the peace between humanity and witches by punishing those that break the rules. However, a witch goes rogue and kills the 36th Dolan (Michael Caine, The Dark Knight), a man meant to keep record of Caulder, and he must defeat it before the world is put under threat.

The thing that is instantly striking about the film is the overall design. The sets are designing within an inch of their lives and it really does evoke the dark gothic atmosphere this film is going for. I imagine it is a mixture of CGI and actual proper set building, but it seems like the effects are just there to enhance what the builders have already done, which I love. Honestly, the work put into sets is really underappreciated. Because of the superb work in the background, the director Breck Eisner (The Crazies) doesn’t have to work as hard to make us believe in this world where witches and all sorts of other weirdness is lurking beyond the shadows.

But something Eisner should know is when a good concept when it hits him the face. And frankly, the idea of witches in New York is one he seems not to be bothered with. Seriously, if you decide to set the film in modern day, you might as use the contrast to your advantage to create some inventive action scenes. But he decides to set to all in the fantasy world hidden within the cracks of this city, which is frustrating. I mean, imagine Vin Diesel battling witches on the Empire State Building. You know the image that you created in your mind of that was awesome, and someone had the chance to make that reality and didn’t. That’s a hanging offence.

Also, if you’ve not realised, this is a ridiculous concept. It’s Vin Diesel fighting witches. Of course it is. And for a couple of scenes, the film realises how stupid it all is. There’s some mickey taking of the whole thing and a few over the top performances. At this point, you think this film may end up a bit of a pulpy affair, and that would be great. There’s nothing more fun than a stupid film that gives in to all it’s dirty impulses. Yet, this film gives up. It becomes po-faced and asks us to take it all serious. I’ve said this a few times already, but this is a witch hunting film starring Vin Diesel. You can’t take it seriously, so don’t ask us to.

But at least the action is good right? Well the visuals are pretty cool which helps and even if Vin Diesel isn’t that good of an actor, he is a competent action star and sells everything very well. And like I love the set design, I do like how they integrate natural things into the witch’s designs and attacks, which just builds into the whole film’s aesethics. Ok, it’s not the best action in the world, I mean CGI is probably overused, but it was pretty fun to watch.

However there is one more poor thing. As it turns out, the witch hunting Vin Diesel film is actually a bit of a bore. If there wasn’t the action to raise your heart rate it’d be a very easy film to fall asleep to. The plot is a snoozefest, something about a witch, who’s never humanised so there’s no reason to even care about it, aiming to start a plague to wipe out humanity but we barely see the effect on the real world so again, it’s rather meaningless.

The Last Witch Hunter should be a stupid mess of a film. It should indulge in the ridiculousness in the concept and allow the creators to go nuts as possible within the constraints of the budget. Instead, we see a fun idea get turned into a boring action film that doesn’t really separate itself from the others in the genre. Yes there are some cool elements, Vin Diesel remains a good action star and the set design is wonderful, but you should let this one remain in the video store. Unless it’s in Salem, I heard once witches don’t do very well there.