It’s no secret that Vin Diesel is a fan of the role playing game Dungeons and Dragons, which is seriously cool, so it’s no surprise to learn that Mister Diesel would produce a movie based on one of his D&D characters, and to be fair what gamer wouldn’t love to see one of his D&D characters brought to life? I just wish he’d picked a more interesting one for this production.
The story opens with a bunch of warriors, who look like they are auditioning for season three of Vikings, and are led by a priest and a badass witch hunter named Kaulder (Vin Diesel) across a desolate winter landscape. They arrive at an enormous evil looking tree that we learn is the source of The Black Plague, and it is up to this band of heroes to enter it so they can kill the one behind this horrible act. The Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) is of course the one responsible for the plague, and the resulting deaths of Kaulder’s wife and child, so before anyone can even say “She turned me into a newt,” they rush in with swords flashing. Now a group of mortal men from the middle ages against a being of immensely powerful dark magic may not seem like a fair fight, but they did bring Vin Diesel.
As the band of warriors enter the caverns of the Witch Queen things immediately go from bad to worse as one by one the men are attacked and turned into monsters themselves. Kaulder is able to fight his way through to the Witch Queen because he has a flaming sword (not sure how medieval blacksmiths pulled this off), but just as he is about to end the Witch Queen’s reign of terror she curses him with immortality.
Yeah, I’m not sure just how good an idea the cursing of a badass witch hunter is. Sure it’s later revealed that she linked her own immortality with his so that someday she could return but this also results in 800 years of Kaulder kicking the shit out of evil witches. I’m betting there are a lot of witches out there who’d wished she’d just taken one for the team and died. Given a closer look her plan is even dumber than it first appears as it hinges on the priest that came with Kaulder to notice the still beating heart of the “dead” witch and that it is somehow tied to the very burnt but surprisingly not dead Kaulder. I’m not sure what Dark Age priest would pick up a beating heart from the withered corpse of a witch and think, “We should totally save this for later.”
This is all from a flashback we get towards the end of the movie where Kaulder finds out that the organization called The Axe and Cross, which he has been working for all these centuries in his endless war against witches, have had the Witch Queen’s heart hidden all these years without telling him. Sure if they had destroyed the heart good ole Kaulder would have died as well and they’d have lost their best fighter, but at the time the priest held up that beating heart Kaulder was basically a burnt skeleton screaming in agony. So severing the connection would have seemed like the merciful thing to do at the time. They certainly had no idea he’d heal up and become an immortal fighter for Truth, Justice and the Catholic Way.
After the opening the movie then jumps those 800 years into the future where we see Kaulder still keeping dangerous magic in its place. Over that time period he has had a series of priests named Dolan (named after the one who entered the original Plague Tree with him), and they’ve spent their time playing the part of Alfred to Kaulder’s Batman, which would explain why they cast Michael Caine to play one of them. After serving at Kaulder’s side for fifty years Dolan the 36th is retiring and to be replaced by Dolan the 37th (Elijah Wood), but before he can enjoy even one day of retirement he is tortured and cursed by an evil witch named Belial (Ólafur Darri Ólafsson). Belial is one of the film’s key failures as not only does he look like a low rent Russian mobster but he never once comes across as scary or even remotely a threat to Vin Diesel’s Kaulder.
To undue the curse Kaulder gets help from Chloe (Rose Leslie) a witch who owns a bar and specializes in magic mind altering spells. He needs her abilities to unlock the memories of his “first death” and much of the film is the two of them trying to pull this off while Belial tries to stop them. Basically it’s a side quest to pad out the film’s running time. Eventually there is a showdown beneath the church owned by The Axe and Cross where Kaulder will face off against a resurrected Witch Queen, and it’s just painfully dull. The fight between the two comes across like a video game boss level fight if you were playing it on the easy setting.
Directed by Breck Eisner, and written by Cory Goodman, The Last Witch Hunter is guilty of one of the greatest crimes that can be leveled at an action/horror film and that would be the crime of being boring. I’ve seen more magical threats in episode of Sabrina the Teen-Age Witch. The action sequences are uninteresting and the CGI for the magical attacks aren’t even on par with an average episode of Supernatural. Vin seems to be trying here but everyone else looks to be wishing they were anywhere else. Oscar winning actor and Hollywood legend Michael Caine is clearly in “Boat Payment Theatre” mode, and Elijah Wood just seems lost and confused in any scene he appears in.
This is one of those films that you know they were hoping to hit franchise gold with, but alas that was not to be. The only claim to fame The Last Witch Hunter has is that it beat Jem and the Holograms on its opening weekend (a feat in itself still more daunting than the Witch Queen we got here). If you are big fan of Vin Diesel it may be worth checking out, but if you want to see a good witch hunting movie I suggest giving Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters a spin.