Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Review: The Last Witch Hunter

World of Blackout Film Review

The Last Witch Hunter Poster

The Last Witch Hunter
Cert: 12A / 106 mins / Dir. Breck Eisner / Trailer
WoB Rating: 2/7

Ah, the misty mornings and muted sunsets of October can mean only one thing: we're in that hinterland between the blockbusters of the Summer months and the family crowd-pleasers of Christmas. It's a time when the studios can present the smaller, more quirky films to a mainstream audience, which would be drowned out of the market at a busier time of year. It's also the point in the release-calendar when those same studios can quietly release the other movies; the ones which aren't on the A-board, but which were deemed 'easy money'. Those costly and time-intensive projects which seemed like a pretty good idea on paper, but ran out of steam once it was too late to halt their production. The B-listers, the bandwagon-jumpers, the flicks which, in an entertainment industry which was actually trying, would be consigned to the straight-to-video pile.

October is the cinematic graveyard-shift.

And how apt that this October sees the arrival of a film which should, by rights, have been sealed in a lead-lined film canister and buried in an unmarked pit. The Last Witch Hunter lumbers from its non-specific-dark-ages opening scene into modern-day New York, whereby it tries to appropriate a sort of Underworld / Army Of Darkness vibe, but with the style and wit of neither. Ably assisting Kaulder (Vin Diesel) in his poorly explained sorceress-dicing quest are Chloe (Rose Leslie, who acts completely as if the part was meant for Emma Stone, but the budget wouldn't stretch to her), Dolan 37th (Elijah Wood, whose money from Lord Of The Rings appears to have finally dried up), and Dolan 36th (none other than Sir Michael Caine, who brings The Gravitas™ to the film in a voice which sounds genuinely embarrassed to be reciting such a hackneyed script).

And you know your screenplay is in real trouble when Caine is called upon to narrate the exposition that you couldn't be bothered to write into the dialogue. And it's a voiceover which is completely abandoned after that scene, once Sir Michael is wheeled to the back of the set and propped up for the rest of the film, save for occasional scenes of advice and moral support. Sort of like a very crap version of Batman's butler, in fact.
"Why do we fall, Bruce?"
"Er, so we can use our minimum appearance fee to buy another villa, I imagine Alfred?"

Elsewhere we have sporadic moments of humour which attempt to ride on a wave of goodwill that the film can't muster, and some thoroughly non-explained premises, such as a) A memory simulator/re-enactment sequence with the warning 'if you die in the memory, you die in here, too'. But if you're re-living your own memory, why would you die in it since you're alive to be experiencing it for a second time? And b) Chloe explaining to Kaulder that she can't use her supernatural power to help him, despite Chloe having used that same power to help Kaulder precisely two scenes earlier. The movie is littered with throwaway ideas that it has neither the time nor inclination to explain properly.

But it's not just the acting and the script which are holding the film down; the abundance of effects-work does its share of that, too. The mid-range CGI is by no means awful, but it's over-used to the point where a fully animated film would have been more convincing, somehow. Although the film's worst enemy could actually be its 12A certificate, meaning that a potentially adrenaline-fuelled action/horror movie can never really rise above something which is suitable for kids*1.

The film's not crap enough to be actively hateful, but it's certainly crap enough to be nowhere near acceptable. There is the germ of a workable idea in The Last Witch Hunter, but poor casting and an incoherent screenplay make this little more than a Greatest Hits reel of all the movies and TV shows you're already bored with. It's the cinematic equivalent of a drunk who keeps forgetting the story he's telling, while his increasingly distracted audience try and work out what the hell he's going on about.

The fact that these four posters all exist in the same marketing campaign suggests that not even the studio themselves are sure what to do with it…
The Last Witch Hunter: Throw them all, see what sticks…

The best line comes from Kaulder himself: "You know what I'm afraid of? Nothing. It's boring, really", in which Diesel sums things up in three short sentences*2.

Summit/E-One have called their film The Last Witch Hunter.
I think it's only fair that we hold them to that descriptor…

Is this film worth paying £10+ to see?
No, it isn't.

Well, I don't like the cinema. Buy it, rent it, or wait for it to be on telly?
Do not pay money to watch this film.
Do. Not

Does this film represent the best work of the leading performer(s)?
This is a low ebb, even for the likes of Caine and Diesel who'll usually go to the opening of a fridge if there's money involved.

Does the film achieve what it sets out to do?
I'm not even entirely sure what it sets out to do, and the answer is still no.

Will I think less of you if we disagree about how good/bad this film is?
Take it to the comments and see…

Oh, and is there a Wilhelm Scream in it?
Not that I heard, although the screaming in my own head which my brain generated to drown out the film's dialogue, also camouflaged most of everything else. Although still not well enough.

…but what's the Star Wars connection?
The Last Witch Hunter features a brief appearance from Rena Owen, aka the Kaminoan, Taun We from Attack of the Clones.

And if I HAD to put a number on it…

** Well, on a technical level, at least. On an artistic one, it's not really suitable for anyone.

*1 Which is the preferred method for Diesel, to be fair.

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.
• Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.
• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

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