Title: The Last Witch Hunter
HTS Overall Score:
Big, dumb fantasy/sci-fi is a hard nut to crack nowadays. Well, it was always a bit of a hard nut to crack as there has been just about as many abysmal movies of the genre over the decades as there has been hits. I’m a fan of these movies, and really have no problem accepting the bad ones as much as I do the good ones. I even have a soft spot for the infamous “Dungeons and Dragons”, “I, Frankenstein” and “Underworld” sequels. Vin Diesel has made a name for himself as playing a giant hulking antihero who loves to lay waste to villains, and he’s also an avid Dungeons and Dragons table top player himself. In fact he fought for quite a while to get “The Last Witch Hunter” made, as it was a personal project of his, and you can tell that he was having a blast throughout the film. Unfortunately “The Last Witch Hunter” ends up being a bit more generic than Vin was probably hoping for, with a paper thin plot (which isn’t a horrible thing) and weak character development. There’s some fun action scenes along the way, but it isn’t as ridiculous and over the top as “Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters”, nor as well done as the original “Underworld”.
Vin Diesel is the titular hero as he’s always been. A man named Kaulder who fights for a mysterious shadow organization with ties to the church (hmmm, sounds familiar). He once was a normal human, a warrior for God who was given the task of hunting down and killing the Witch Queen. Finishing the evil queen off, Kaulder is unfortunately cursed with immortality so that he may suffer till the end of days. Now in the present, he is a living weapon. A man who cannot be killed and has a life time’s worth of knowledge when it comes to hunting witches. After the witch queen is toast, Kaulder has spent the last 800 years hunting witches who violate the truce that has been struck between man and the specially gifted. Feared among witches and unknown by most humans, Kaulder continues his work with the aid of a priest, who acts as both his handler as well as his priest. After his last priest (played by Michael Caine) is put under a curse, Kaulder strikes out to find what witch has made an open declaration of war in this manner.
As you may have guessed, the truce is about to get shattered into pieces, as Kaulder struggles to find out who is responsible. His first stop is a young Witch named Chloe (“Game of Thrones” own Rose Leslie) who has the power to regain memories, as his old mentor left him a clue in his past. Only he finds a bit more than he bargained for when a powerful warlock enemy reveals the secret that the witches are hiding. The Witch Queen is not REALLY dead, only sleeping and with their powers they wish to resurrect their old boss. A ceremony that if not stopped will unleash an enemy that the world has not had to face for over 800 years.
“The Last Witch Hunter” is an odd mix of dumb fun and awful face palming in equal measures. Vin Diesel is obviously having a blast, with a goofy grin spread all over his face throughout the film. His love for the genre is palpable and plastered all over his expressions throughout and his acting is actually quite good for the action star. It’s really the script that betrays him. These things are hard to get just right and the weak writing belays the obvious enthusiasm the lead has for his role. You can tell right from the start that Vin wanted to start his own franchise to rival “Underworld” and the like, as the story is filled with world building and setups that would obviously lead to bigger and better things if they allowed him. Chloe’s warning of darker things than the queen waiting in the shadows is pretty blatant foreshadowing for a hopeful sequel that most likely will never come.
I love dumb fantasy movies, and really like “Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters” so I was kind of hoping for something as ridiculously over the top and fun as that one. Sadly the movie takes itself too seriously for that, and can’t really rise above the weak script. HOWEVER, there is still a modicum of fun to be scraped from the film. The action is quite pleasing and the choreography works. Even for me who is jaded about the use of CGI in these films felt the computer graphics blended well with the live action work and the blending of sword and sorcery was a nice breath of fresh air in a world that has been over saturated with Vampires and Zombies. It’s not a great movie, and not even a guilty pleasure movie, but something that’s fun in a late night cable sort of way.
Rated PG-13 for sequences of fantasy violence and frightening images
While the movie isn’t a wildly incredible film, the video presentation is just this close to being perfect. Ala most sword and sorcery style, “The Last Witch Hunter” is a film that is bathed in darkness, punctuated by greys and teal blue overtones to give it a decidedly “Underworld” look at times. Gothic structures, stone walls, dirty ground and creepy flame lit sequences with shadows flickering along the wall. All of this to say that the film is just a dark dark movie with only a few bits where Vin is in the light. These daylight scenes are lusciously saturated with greens and overly bright whites with incredible detail. The darkness, however, is just as detailed as the daylight that Kaulder is so foreign too and full of incredibly well detailed shadows and finely wrought stitching on clothing. Black levels stay incredibly inky and well defined, without the flaws of crush or washed out black levels to detract from the gorgeous looking film.
Atmos has been the king of object based next generation audio, but DTS has slowly been leaking out their own competition to Atmos in the form of DTS:X. “The Last Witch Hunter” is the third film from Lionsgate (and the third film AT ALL) with a DTS:X object based track and it is simply superb. Unfortunately I don’t have the firmware to enjoy a DTS:X track to its fullest, so I have to review the 7.1 DTS-HD MA core track. Dialog is precise and well defined throughout the movie, and the surround are constantly alive with razor sharp details. Flames crackle in the front soundstage and a burning branch can pop in the back left speaker, followed by a scraping sound that starts in the surrounds but makes it’s way to the center stage of the mains after a few moments. LFE is deep and powerful, adding a huge sense of power and weight to the entire track. The Witches gate keeper tree monster thingy ma bob is incredibly powerful sounding and the track goes down deep and loooooooooo to make my pant legs vibrate with the low end support.
• Crafting the Magic: The Last Witch Hunter” Featurette
• Animated Short Films – The Origins of the Axe and Cross
• The Last Witch Hunter Sizzle Reel / “Paint It, Black”
• Audio Commentary with Director Breck Eisner
• Deleted Scenes
“The Last Witch Hunter” is not an awful movie that I can recommend whole heartedly like I did with “I, Frankenstein”, as there are far too many flaws for that. However I will say that it’s not as bad as I honestly thought it would be from the horrible theatrical trailer. If you’re a fan of Vin Diesel and like to see some swords and magic, then I wouldn’t feel you’d be bad off giving the disc a spin. Just beware the bad writing. Audio and video for the disc are superb, with an amazing audio track and really really nice video track to make the home theater nut in all of us happy. I’d recommend this one as a low end rental for a late night when the wife (or husband) is away and won’t give you grief for giving it a spin in the player.
Starring: Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood
Directed by: Breck Eisner
Written by: Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama
Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1 AVC
Audio: English DTS:X, English DTS Headphone:X, Spanish DTS-HD MA 5.1, English DTS 2.0
Runtime: 106 minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 2nd, 2016
Buy The Last Witch Hunter On Blu-ray at Amazon
Recommendation: Low Rental
More about Mike