There are movies that you know you will like before you see them. You’ll hear the premise and it’ll grab you. You don’t need to see a trailer or read a synopsis. All you need to know is a few key words, the ones that get you to the theater. And then you have a great experience.
Going into The Last Witch Hunter, I knew that it was called The Last Witch Hunter and that it had Vin Diesel in it. Looking at my press notes revealed to me that Elijah Wood was in it, as was Rose Leslie (from the fantastic horror film Honeymoon, also Game of Thrones). But beyond that, I didn’t know anything. But I didn’t have to, because I knew it was going to be a bad film from the moment I heard about it. Vin Diesel: Witch Hunter. That’s nothing but schlock. There’s good schlock and there’s bad schlock. And it will surprise no one to know which type The Last Witch Hunter is.
The Last Witch Hunter
Director: Breck Eisner
Release Date: October 23, 2015
The best moment in The Last Witch Hunter comes less than ten minutes in. It’s a small thing, when Vin Diesel acknowledges a child in the middle of some intense supernatural setpiece. It’s badass, and it’s funny – intentionally so. It’s the only moment in the movie that I look back on with legitimate fondness. Because it’s all downhill from there.
For reasons that don’t matter, Vin Diesel is immortal, and because he is immortal, he has taken on the role of The Last Witch Hunter. He’s basically a beat cop, and his beat is the supernatural. Witches do things, and he comes and gets them. Maybe they’re arrested, or maybe they’re executed (they’re not executed). But the people around him aren’t immortal. Like Michael Caine, for example, who Vin Diesel refers to as “kid” (which is the second best thing about the film). Michael Caine is a priest of some sort, and his job is to basically watch the Watchman. He writes down the oral history of the deeds and the life. I wonder how interesting those stories are. If this is what the writers thought was the story that needed to be told, well… maybe his life’s been pretty boring. I’m not the first person to say this, and I won’t be the last, but the cardinal sin of a bad movie is being boring. If you’re going to be bad, at least be entertaining. If I look at my watch during a schlocky movie, that’s a bad sign. If I look at my watch knowing full well that my batteries are dead, that’s an awful one.
I wanted to like the movie, at least a little bit. I mean, heck, I kinda did like it a little bit. I was bored, but I wasn’t angry. I get angry at movies sometimes, but this wasn’t one of them. I felt more or less indifferent, which is also bad… but less so. The Last Witch Hunter‘s biggest failing is literally every single aspect of it. The acting is bad (although Rose Leslie does a decent job considering what she’s got (unless they were trying to make her a Vin Diesel love interest, in which case that was horrifying)), the writing is bad, the CGI is garbage, the action scenes are among the worst I’ve seen in years, and it’s just like… why? What was the purpose of this movie? I legitimately and honestly wonder that, because some part of me hears the name Vin Diesel: Witch Hunter and gets excited by the prospect. Because it sounds pretty awesome. Like, in a bad way, but awesome. And it’s just disappointing that the film isn’t that.
But there’s just something about it that kept me from actively disliking The Last Witch Hunter, and I’ve been trying (and failing) to figure out what it is. But what makes it more frustrating is that I don’t care enough to figure out why. My job as a critic is to be able to answer these questions (or at least pose more interesting ones), and I really can’t do my job here. Aside from a few moments here and there, there’s not a whole lot to redeem The Last Witch Hunter, but I also wouldn’t call it a “bad film.” Perhaps it’s because there’s nothing to really damn it either? No scene in the movie goes so far off the rails as to be anything more than eye-roll worthy. I can’t bring myself to actively dislike it because it’s just… there. This movie is more bad than good, but the reality is that it’s just painfully average. Maybe average plus. But if you asked me where the plus came from (which you implicitly did by clicking on this review), I honestly couldn’t tell you.
About ten minutes before the film ended, I thought: “Oh how cute! It thinks it’s going to get a sequel!” Many films like this throw a last-minute twist in there that sets up a sequel. This devotes a whole bunch of time to it. The final climactic battle is shorter than the setup for a sequel that this film will never get. That’s some serious prioritization failure right there. But some part of me also wishes that there was going to be a sequel… not because it would have been good, but because maybe it could have been more bad. Good bad. It could have been the thing that this promised to be with its premise but was not.
We’re not going to get that. There is no way this film is anything but a colossal failure at the box office. And if I’m wrong? Well… I’ll be shocked and possibly hopeful that the second movie will try a little bit harder to make something fun. But it’s a moot point, because yeah… no one’s gonna go see this thing.
And really, they shouldn’t.