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Film review: The Last Witch Hunter casts no spell

Aleesha Matharu | Updated on: 24 October 2015, 1:49 IST

The Last Witch Hunter is the kind of movie that starts to fall apart almost as soon as the film begins to roll.

Which is utterly disappointing because the previews made it look exciting, gory and magical. You think Vin Diesel would get to fight armies of demonic witches much like the hordes of vampires good ole Abe Lincoln slayed in Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Slayer.

Instead it was anything but.

The film opens sometime in the Middle Ages where a bunch of incredibly manly men with big beards and furs are hunting the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht). Big hairy man Kaulder (Diesel) is among them and he very obviously manages to corner the Witch Queen - who's pretty much made up of tree roots and bugs- who's brought a "black plague" upon humanity.

He eventually skewers her with a fiery sword, but as she disintegrates into a heap of ash, the Witch Queen curses Kaulder with immortality, thereby condemning him to an eternity of witch hunting.

Fast forward 800 years to present day and Kaulder's gotten rid of the bad wigs and adopted the cue ball hairdo that is Diesel's trademark.

He's been at this witch hunting game for a while, which means he also has the powers to infer the presence of witches by fogging up windows with his breath and whispering, "Magic!"

When Ellic (Michael Caine), Kaulder's sidekick and biographer, dies on the day of his retirement, Kaulder investigates, and discovers a plot to revive the centuries-dead Witch Queen. Somewhere in between, Dolan 37 (Elijah Wood) becomes his new sidekick only to be barely seen again.

So Kaulder gets mad. Well, it's suggested he's mad. There's just no way of knowing thanks to Diesel's lack of facial movement.

The plot just crumples completely after that. Random people are killed, yet other random ones are chosen to be vessels (the black guy, really?) and pretty much none of the actual scripted punchlines land.

Heck, it wasn't even fun watching Vin Diesel deliver indulgent one-liners. "Do you know what I'm afraid of?" he asks, before quickly supplying the answer: "Nothing."

No sense at all

First of all, why is Vin Diesel the last witch hunter? He comes across more cop than hunter. It also really seems like director Breck Eisner and his screenwriters had written the role for Nicholas Cage. In fact, I'm still amazed that he wasn't in the film.

Game of Thrones' Rose Leslie is quite likeable as Chloe, a modern-day witch mixing potions and alcohol at her very Stevie Nicks' like bar.

But since there's nothing remotely genuine about the random romantic banter in the script, Kaulder and Chloe just look awkward together on screen.

Ill-advised sequel

The worst part is the premise could have worked. But that's only if the writers had decided to take a break from throwing in an endless amount of sub text. And if they hadn't wasted frames with Gladiator-like dream sequences, they could have definitely packed in some more much-needed action.

In fact, the film is so uninspired at times that your mind wanders as the lackluster plot marches on. "Hey," you think. "Elijah Wood's eyes are still impossibly wide and blue, just like in those Lord of the Rings movies."

That, of course, does not speak well for the film.

Even worse: the dull nature of the movie gives you time to ask some awkward questions about the plot, especially the anticlimactic final act.

All you can do then is shuffle out of the theatre feeling utterly cheated.

There's already talk of a sequel (this is meant to be a franchise). Diesel, who produced the film, started with the idea of a franchise so we'll soon be besieged by part 2.

Spare us. Please.

Rating - 2 stars

First published: 24 October 2015, 1:49 IST
 
Aleesha Matharu @almatharu

Born in Bihar, raised in Delhi and schooled in Dehradun, Aleesha writes on a range of subjects and worked at The Indian Express before joining Catch as a sub-editor. When not at work you can find her glued to the TV, trying to clear a backlog of shows, or reading her Kindle. Raised on a diet of rock 'n' roll, she's hit occasionally by wanderlust. After an eight-year stint at Welham Girls' School, Delhi University turned out to be an exercise in youthful rebellion before she finally trudged her way to J-school and got the best all-round student award. Now she takes each day as it comes, but isn't an eternal optimist.

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