As direct-to-DVD movies go, The Last Witch Hunter is surprisingly oh wait I saw this in the theater.
I had fun, but here I am a day later trying to write a review, and the movie has already faded into the meld-haze of urban fantasy “hidden world” films in which a badass protagonist fights ultimate evil. Why did this even get made?
Maybe because Vin Diesel is a giant nerd, and wanted to make a sci-fi/fantasy/horror genre movie that he got to be in?
Look, I had fun during the film. It cleared my Threshold of Disappointment (unlike the OTHER Vin Diesel film I saw this year) and was interesting enough that I did not finish my popcorn or my soda.
But it was predictable, and sloppy, and took shortcuts, and could have been a truly memorable, outstanding addition to a crowded field full of similar things. Here’s a bulleted list of sins which, had they not been committed, could have allowed this film over my Threshold of Awesome.
- Shaky-cam during cool action
- Shaky-cam as a “oh no we’re getting slaughtered” device
- Cliché dialog as a shortcut for selling us an emotional state.
- Immortality as a boon/curse, which (gasp) can be taken away.
- Betrayal we all saw coming.
- Why didn’t you just lead with that?
- If you have little vials of “detect magic,” you should be using them all the time, or you should be explaining that they are expensive/rare.
- Man of few words who seldom shows emotion
- Because he’s tortured by memories
- Which we are going to have to sit through
- But it’s okay because they’re central to the plot.
It’s a long list, I know. A great many genre movies commit these same sins, and are mediocre-to-bad as a result. It’s a good thing I like Vin Diesel, and an even better thing that Rose Leslie (who I’d never seen in a film before) shone the way she did in a cast full of bigger names.
(Note: If there is a sequel that has ZERO Vin Diesel, and is all about Rose Leslie’s character Chloe taking up the Witch Hunter mantle despite being herself a witch, I would pay opening night fancy-seat money. No, wait… just give her a franchise of her own, without the baggage of this film.)
That reminds me:
- A non-immortal character who is interesting, and who we care about, who can be threatened with death to make us feel tension
The Last Witch Hunter enters my list at #20 out of #30. Do I recommend it? When it hits Netflix it might make for a great excuse to have the TV on while you knit something. If you’ve got movie money to spend, though, there are many much better options.