Director: Breck Eisner
Starring: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie & Elijah Wood
Synopsis: The Last Witch Hunter is all that stands between humanity and the combined forces of the most horrifying witches in history.
Rating: 12A Duration: 106 minutes Release date: 7 March (UK)
Initially released in October 2015, The Last Witch Hunter may have eluded more than a few cinema goers. It’s laborious box office certainly suggests so, and a generally negative critical response meant the film passed through cinemas with barely a whimper. Despite the big name draws of Vin Diesel and Michael Caine, it’s not too hard to see why it got left behind.
Kaulder (Diesel) is a witch hunter cursed to live through the ages as an immortal after seemingly defeating the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht) during the middle ages. His vendetta against the Witch Queen is as personal as it is professional, after she unleashed the Black Plague, killing Kaulder’s family in the process. The irony being that Kaulder wanted nothing more than to die in battle, yet was damned to spend the rest of eternity keeping the peace between witches and humans.
In terms of a sucker punch, you can’t really get much worse than being forced to live forever when all you want to do is die. Vin Diesel carries the weight of this heavy burden well, and there’s a sadness in his eyes in several scenes throughout The Last Witch Hunter which perfectly display the effect this has had on his character. Of course, he also knows that life would be nothing if he didn’t have some fun too, whether that be with a Nature Valley Bar level of dry humour or with a string of pretty, young air stewardesses.
Assisting him in his efforts is a Dolan, specifically the 36th and 37th Dolan’s in Michael Caine and later Elijah Wood. The Dolan character itself is a cross between Gandalf and Giles from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and imparts wisdom while looking after Kaulder’s well being. The role doesn’t give either actor much to go with really, but Caine manages to be his likeable self, while seemingly getting on very well with Diesel. Wood on the other hand is a little too stiff, but then again it seems to be what his part called for.
There is fun to be had here though. In an overblown The Lord of the Rings mixed with Ghostbusters kind of way, The Last Witch Hunter exists as a distraction, a lazy Sunday afternoon film that won’t tax anyone who watches it and doesn’t leave much room for complaint as it wears its heart proudly on its sleeve. It doesn’t take up time with unnecessary exposition and drops you straight into the story, while keeping things fun and, at times, is visually lovely.
However, there is a tendency in the film to be too reliant on CGI and it can look very elaborate at times, taking away from the audiences viewing experience. Despite being relatively short for a modern blockbuster, at 106 minutes, The Last Witch Hunter feels like it could lose 20 minutes or so, as it does have the ability to drag on a bit, especially in the overly long final battle.
In a way, it’s a shame The Last Witch Hunter wasn’t more successful, as it was trying to build a new cinematic universe that wasn’t based on a book, graphic novel or game. But it also sticks too rigidly to genre formula to really stand out in a crowded market.
The Blu-ray release of The Last Witch Hunter features a commentary with director Breck Eisner, two deleted scenes, a sizzle reel, four animated shorts and a making of documentary.
Crafting the Magic: The Last Witch Hunter goes behind the scenes on the making of the film. Looking at the different aspects of the film, Crafting the Magic talks to the actors and director and looks at the special effects that created their mythical world. As far as most making-of documentaries go, it does a good job of complimenting the film and shines a light on some key aspects of the film.
The sizzle reel and deleted scenes are the usual disc filler, but the highlight is the four animated shorts. These highly stylised shorts are each narrated by Michael Caine and add depth to the mythology created for the film. After seeing these, one wonders if an animated series would suit the, potential, franchise better than any live action sequel could.
The Last Witch Hunter is out on Blu-ray™ and DVD on the 7 March, courtesy of Entertainment One.