Actor pet project films are always interesting to watch. Vin Diesel, being a large Dungeons and Dragons player, talked with screen-writers to try and get a big-budget adaptation of his favourite past-time into theatres, and finally, after three years, they made it. Does Diesel’s passion for table-top role playing games come through in the film?
The Last Witch Hunter stars Vin Diesel, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood and Michael Caine and is directed by Breck Eisner. the story follows Kaulder (Diesel) an immortal witch hunter who works for the secret society The Axe and Cross, to defend the human world against those in the Witching World who would attempt to destroy it.
The film starts with a very Dungeons and Dragons style battle set in the Dark Ages, as Kaulder and other hunters attempt to rid the world of the Witch Queen. It’s a fun opening, full of swords, bows and arrows and magic spells and it also shows us what Vin Diesel looks like with a full head of hair. This Dark Ages setting though is soon dropped, with the Witch Queen’s apparent death and Kaulder being cursed with immortality, so the film transports us to modern day New York, where Kaulder is still fighting to keep the worlds of witches and humans separate. It’s similar to Men In Black or R.I.P.D. in terms of a two-world story but it never comes anywhere close to being as good as those two.
The acting is really quite poor. Vin Diesel is playing the same character as always, but the main problem is that he seems to be trying to blend all his words together. It sounds like he’s gargling gravel, without hardly any sounds being recognisable as words. Michael Caine and Elijah Wood seem to be retreading their roles of Alfred and Frodo from Batman and LOTR respectively, but both look bored to be in The Last Witch Hunter. Caine especially, who speaks in a monotone voice and doesn’t change his facial expression once in the film.
The story, despite a few good moments of lore-building, is very undercooked. Even with all the lore that the story tries to cram into the film, none of its engaging. I fell asleep for a good five minutes in the middle of the film and when I woke up I didn’t care if I had missed anything important. The problem I can trace it all back to is Vin Diesel’s character Kaulder being an immortal warrior. The film tries to play Kaulder off as the best fighter in the world (much like another Vin Diesel character, Riddick), but that doesn’t make him empathetic.
The best heroes are ones where we can see they are in peril. Characters like John McClane (except in Die Hard 5) or any one of Jackie Chan’s characters, we empathise with them because we can sense the danger they are in. Even Wolverine in the X-Men series, despite being immortal there is always at least one character who can best him in each film. Kaulder on the other hand, is always on top of the situation and never seems to have any trouble taking down wave after wave of enemies. Even though the film tries to de-power him in the final act, the stakes never feel high enough that we think Kaulder will lose.
All in all, The Last Witch Hunter had the crux of a good, if overused idea at its heart. But a weak script, abysmal acting and an un-sympathetic main character make it one of the most boring to watch. I would give the film a lower score, but it doesn’t actively offend me. It’s just tedious.
Score: 2/10 Vin Diesel can do better than this.