Thursday, 29 October 2015
The Last Witch Hunter (3½ Stars)
The premise of this film is that witches are a different race that live on Earth alongside humans. In the past witches were powerful and threatened to conquer the world, either destroying or enslaving humans, but there were elite bands of witch hunters who fought against them. After the defeat of their queen in the 13th Century the witches grew weaker and their power was diluted, presumably by intermarriage with humans. The witch hunters were disbanded, and a secret society called the Axe and Cross took its place. Witches are allowed to exist, as long as they don't harm humans. Vin Diesel is the only remaining witch hunter. He was the one who killed the witch queen in the 13th Century, but before her death she cursed him to live forever. He now lives in modern day New York, even though his missions take him all over the world.
There are many different types of films. Some are true stories, some are science fiction, some are supernatural stories, some are fantasy, etc. There are different rules in each type of film that dictate what's allowed and what isn't. In a vampire film we don't see spaceships firing at each other, in a Victorian period drama we don't see mobile phones, etc. Every film that we watch uses the first five to ten minutes to lay out, usually implicitly, what the rules are. The viewer needs to be acclimatised. He needs to know what sort of a film he's watching. That's where "The Last Witch Hunter" fails. The opening scenes are totally confusing. We see Vikings, followed by confusing special effects. This disorients the viewer. By the time we get to the present day the rug has already been pulled from under our feet.
The problems deepen as the film continues. The film relies too much on special effects. It's often difficult to see what's happening. If the film had toned down the special effects it would have been more enjoyable.
Vin Diesel's acting pleasantly surprised me. He puts on a reasonable performance as the hardened fighter. He has a tender side that he suppresses, and this inner conflict is played out in his facial expressions. On the other hand, his love interest Chloe, played by Rose Leslie, is a very weak character. It's not just her acting, she's poorly introduced to us. After seeing her in the bar scene she's just a caricature. The same is true of the bad guy, Belial. He's just a random monster, and it leaves us cold when he's destroyed. The best films make us feel sympathetic for the bad guys, and we have a twinge of pity when they're killed. There's none of this in "The Last Witch Hunter".
It's not a bad film, but it's not a good film either. It's very forgettable. The film's ending loudly hints that there will be a sequel, but please, we don't want one.