It’s an understatement to say that critics have been quick to jump on the bandwagon of panning The Last Witch Hunter and labelling it a flop, but while the film may be a little undercooked in the narrative department, Breck Eisner’s (The Crazies) witch tale at the least is an entertaining watch.
When we first meet Kaulder (Vin Diesel), he’s a Viking witch slayer, having hunted down the powerful Witch Queen, who curses him with immortality as she takes her last breath. Now 800 years later, he’s employed by a secret order of priests known as the Axe and Cross, and is always assisted by a sidekick and records keeper referred to as a ‘Dolan’. Yet, when the 36th Dolan (Michael Caine) is tragically killed the night of his retirement, Kaulder is sent on a quest to investigate his mysterious death, which uncovers a sinister plot to resurrect the Queen. Now with the help of his companions replacement, the 37th Dolan (Elijah Wood), and a bar owner witch (Rose Leslie), Kaulder must face the darkest magics in order to ensure that the Queen does not rise again.
The foremost element that the film has going for it, is Diesel (Furious 7) himself. He brings such enthusiasm to playing his witch slayer that it’s obvious just how much fun he was having while in character. On top of this, he has good chemistry with Leslie (Game of Thrones), who brings an earthiness to her flirtatious witch, and there’s a tenderness to the softer scenes that the two share. Wood (Wilfred) and Caine (Interstellar) also deliver as the priestly sidekicks, although their roles included mostly delivering exposition and they miss out on most of the action.
The film also offers a fairly elaborate mythology of both the witches and hunters, but most of it is only depicted as a taste and isn’t explored as much as it possibly could have been. Some of the more interesting elements on offer are glossed over, such as the witch’s council, which we only get mere glimpses of, and also the modern socializing of the witches, which is an underlining reason why this is ultimately just a good film rather than a great one. The roles of both Dolans also appear rather underutilized, especially the 37th who seems to disappear for segments of the film and, as a result, hasn’t attained the required depth that the narrative calls on during it’s climax.
Those anticipating The Last Witch Hunter to be a fantasy on the levels of J. R. R. Tolkien or George R. R. Martin should best lower expectations, but anyone looking for a fun action-adventure film will be well satisfied with this supernatural outing.