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Maybe Not The Last

Let’s be honest, audiences love a good supernatural film. They almost tend to come and go in phases / fads. The 80’s were all about ghost and ghouls. The 90’s were dominated by vampires, and we are currently knee-deep in a zombie craze. There is nothing wrong with this, and every now and then we get a film that is trying to find its own space. That is what “The Last Witch Hunter” feels like the most. Vampires are substituted with “Witches”. The eerie dystopian scenery is instead filled by more modern scenery.  Replacing the young “teenage” hero with a large and some what menacing Vin Diesel.  “The Last Witch Hunter” isn’t rewriting any formulas,  but it becomes clear fairly quickly that it isn’t trying to. It just wants to be different, and excelling at those differences is what ultimately makes watching Vin Diesel’s Kaulder such a fun ride. Kaulder is cursed with immortality. A curse casted on him by the witch queen when he defeated her over 800 years ago. For that time period he has faithfully served an organization that maintains the balance between humans and witches called The Axe and Cross.

Kaulder has returned to the head quarters of the Axe and Cross. For over 800 years Kaulder has been followed by an assistant who they refer to as a Dolan. The 36th Dolan (Micheal Caine) is retiring and Kaulder wants to wish him a humble goodbye.  The next morning, Kaulder is notified that the 36th Dolan has passed away in his sleep. He is soon introduced to his new Dolan (Elijah Wood) and together they soon discover some foul play behind the death of the last Dolan. This discovery sets in motion a plan that threatens the entire human race.

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When I was done watching this film, two films came to mind that I think sum it up pretty well. The Last Witch Hunter feels like a tasteful combination of Wesley Snipes’s Blade and Keanu Reeves’ John Wick. It doesn’t do anything as well as those films, but borrows the right parts to feel fresh.  The world feels a lot like blade, a human race mostly unaware of what lurks in the shadows. Witches follow certain rules to remain in good standing with the Axe and Cross. Witches that cross that line receive a visit from Kaulder himself. This is where the film feels a lot like John Wick. This character that is superseded by his reputation. When witches see Kaulder they can only pray that he isn’t visiting in any sort of official capacity. With that being said, the film stands on the firm shoulders of Diesel.  His stoic demeanor supports the image of someone who has mostly seen it all.  He also has the physicality that goes hand in hand with the notion of being feared.  I wont go as far as to say his performance was excellent, but it does support the narrative very well.

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Micheal Caine and Elijah Wood do respectable jobs as Dolans. However, they don’t really offer much of anything other than the occasional body to bounce ideas off of. Rose Leslie of Downtown Abbey and Game of Thrones fame puts in a respectable perform as Kaulder unwilling partner. A witch herself, when her life is impacted by the collateral damage of Kaulder’s war.  Getting even is a good enough reason for her to help him.

"Who says a witch can't hunt witches" ~ Chloe
“Who says a witch can’t hunt witches” ~ Chloe

The weakness of the film is pretty much just the screenplay.  The script doesn’t attempt to elevate the world being put on-screen. It’s for this reason, while most of the performances are good, they are ultimately forgettable. Most people will put this blame on the actors themselves, but you can only do so much with dialogue that is “painted by the numbers”. It also lacks a convicting villain, as actress Julie Engelbrecht is mostly just a prop for corny evil dialogue. Which is too bad because the world presented looks pretty damn good.  Bought to life with some impressive visuals and cinematography. Spells and monsters sort of pop on-screen and legitimately spark your interest.  You get a film that looks the part, even if it’s mostly at face value. The Last Witch Hunter is mostly worth the trip, its way more enjoyable than I thought it would be.  The world is put in place, and I could even see a very compelling sequel.  I suppose that’s what most movies of this archetype attempt to do. Be good enough to warrant a sequel … Now we’ll just have to wait and see if this really will be the Last Witch Hunter or not.

C

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsuG2JUgs_8]

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