Vin Diesel is an interesting fellow. He refuses to talk about his sexuality or his ethnicity; started his career writing, directing, producing, and starring in his first feature; and is an unabashed puppy dog on Facebook. Most importantly, he loves Dungeons and Dragons. He has played for more than 20 years and has even written the forward for the book 30 Years of Adventure: A Celebration of Dungeons and Dragons. With The Last Witch Hunter, the dream has come true because I'll be damned if he didn't make his very own D&D movie.
The flick tells the tale of Kaulder (Diesel), a hairy Viking Macklemore from the 13th century whose wife and daughter are wiped out by a black plague whipped up by the Witch Queen. She wants to wipe out humanity because we're basically a parasite on Earth and she's made of trees or something. As he kills her, she curses him with immortality, so he has to survive through history without his family.
We then jump to 800 years later, Kaulder now looks like a nightclub bouncer in Florida and works with the Knights of the Axe and Cross hunting witches. They provide him with Dolans, a priest that basically acts as Kaulder's handler, friend, and confessor. Michael Caine plays Kaulder's 36th Dolan, who is getting ready to pass the torch to the 37th, Elijah Wood. When Caine is attacked, Kaulder teams up with a witch to get some deep v-necked revenge.
The biggest issue with the film is that it doesn't differentiate itself from the onslaught of urban fantasy books, movies, and shows of the last few decades. As much fun as Diesel is to watch, Kaulder is basically a mash-up of Alan Moore's John Constantine and Jim Butcher's Harry Dresden.
This is a man who has been capturing and killing witches for 800 years. Everyone is afraid of him and when he walks into a room, people run. Kaulder is the Keyser Soze of immortal witch hunters. Now that is a great premise, except that Kaulder is SUPER nice. Like, really polite and friendly, without a single anti-hero bone in his body. Everything shouldn't be populated with anti-heroes, but when your fearsome witch hunter is doling out hugs like juice at the Red Cross, there might be some wires getting crossed somewhere.
Director Breck Eisner has made one decent horror movie in The Crazies and one terrible action movie in Sahara, with The Last Witch Hunter falling somewhere in between. It has some fun ideas (witch prison!) and some terrible ones (over-reliance on a flaming sword of doom); it has some good performances (Rose Leslie as Chloe The Helpful Witch) and some not-so-good ones (Elijah Wood is stranded). The film feels made by committee, as if they were nervous about how nerdy the whole D&D vibe was getting (the film could have used a Drow), so everything just turned out kinda half-assed. This is the kind of movie that really needs a whole ass in order to work.
I'm really glad we have Vin Diesel. I will love most of the Fast and Furious and Riddick movies until the day I die, and I think The Iron Giant is the best animated film of all time, so don't get me wrong: I wanted this movie to work so badly. The fact that Diesel gets to indulge his inner nerd and make a living at it is wonderful and, I'm sure, a dream come true. The movie blatantly sets up a sequel since Diesel is looking to get another franchise going, so maybe with stronger direction and a better script, we can roll the 12-sided die on the next one.
The Last Witch Hunter
Dir. Breck Eisner
Now Playing at Old Mill Stadium