Film Review: The Last Witch Hunter (USA, 2015)

Going into the Vin Disel-fronted supernatural action film The Last Witch Hunter, I wasn’t quite certain what to expect. Sure, the idea of Vin Diesel as an immortal witch hunter who saved humanity from hidden supernatural threats is dumb – but as everyone familiar with horror movies knows, dumb doesn’t have to mean bad. In fact, it’s easy to to imagine a world where The Last Witch Hunter spins its flagrantly outlandish premise into something that’s hilarious and fun to watch. Unfortunately, the version of the film that’s been set loose in our timeline doesn’t quite get there.

The Last Witch Hunter follows the adventures of Kaulder (Vin Diesel), an immortal warrior who’s spent centuries hunting down the supernatural forces lurking in the shadows of human civilization. After his loyal companion Dolan the 36th (Michael Caine) is struck down by forces unknown, Kaulder finds new allies in the form of Chloe (Rose Leslie) and Dolan’s successor (Elijah Wood) and sets out to bring those responsible to justice.

Conceptually, Kaulder’s actually a really interesting archetype for a character. He’s hardly the first such character, but the idea of a protagonist without mortality still has a lot of life left in it if handled correctly. However, unlike Doctor Who’s Captain Jack Harkness, Diesel lacks the charisma that the writing seems to expect of the role. His unique friendship with Michael Caine’s character aside, his character feels flat and the rest of the cast struggles to fill this void as it drags the film down.

In fact, structurally, The Last Witch Hunter probably has a lot in common with video game storytelling. Kauldur and company enter a new scene/environment, fight for a bit, talk for a bit, fight a boss and then discover information that sets them on their next quest. Though the aesthetic tying the whole adventure together is consistent, it fails to really stand out from both The Last Witch Hunter’s current box office competition (Guillermo Del Toro’s Crimson Peak) and the classics of the genre it desperately wants to be held up alongside (Van Helsing, Underworld, etc).

Despite these shortcomings, The Last Witch Hunter is actually surprisingly committed to fleshing out the expansive albeit-generic setting in which it takes place. Regrettably, this facet of the film is wieghed down by its grimdark tone. Concepts like the Witch Council, Witch-Prison and Dreamwalkers are thrown around by characters who unfortunately manage to keep straight faces. On the whole, I’d say one of the film’s biggest problems is that it takes itself way too seriously and doesn’t really find much time to have fun.

And it’s a shame that The Last Witch Hunter doesn’t manage to find the fun because there are genuinely compelling ideas here. However, this is just not the movie smart enough to effectively execute on them. Nor is it dumb enough to stand outside the shadow of the Jupiter Ascending so-bad-it’s-good pedigree. Despite my best attempts to have fun with this movie, it’s just kinda mediocre and forgettable on all fronts.

Review Score: TWO (OUT OF FIVE STARS)

Running Time: 106 Minutes

The Last Witch Hunter is out this Thursday (October 29th).