The Last Witch Hunter is one of those films that you really like in some parts and really don’t in the others. The question though always is whether you like it more or dislike it more. In this case, I have to admit that I had a pretty good time with it even though I am not going to watch it a second time. It is a film brimming with action and is fast in its storytelling but has some inherent flaws that stop it from becoming more than a one-time entertainer. The biggest of these flaws is a lack of coherence in the narrative and off course the believability factor which in films like these is always done away with. It has to be understood that some of the biggest successes in this genre are the films that rise from just being entertainers and actually take themselves seriously. That’s not the case here.
The story revolves around a witch hunter Kaulder (Vin Diesel) who successfully eliminates the Witch Queen bringing peace and safety to the people of the world. Before dying, the Witch Queen renders him immortal to forever suffer the fangs of being alone. We swoosh forward in time and now Kaulder is a suave and considerate witch hunter who spends his time tracking the remaining evil witches and bringing them in front of the Witch Council who then punish them according to their offenses. He no longer murders them but only brings them to the law. Keeping his company is the 36th Dolan (Michael Caine) a man who documents his works and guides him wherever he needs guidance.
At the end of his term, Dolan 36th gives his mantle to a more modernized version of Dolans played by Elijah Wood who pledges his alliance to Kaulder. However on that very night, Dolan 36th is mysteriously murdered. On investigating, Kaulder finds clues to some unholy magic that might be afoot and might have led to the death of the Dolan. His investigation takes him deeper into a secret that was better left untouched and also makes him question his age old beliefs. The clues also point to the return of the Witch Queen that must be stopped at any cost if humanity is to survive.
The film’s story is fairly engaging. I was really hooked to the narrative for a good part. The action sequences are also brisk and sans the first fight where the hyper-editing (my way of saying that there were too many cuts and too fast) spoils the fun, the rest of the action sequences remain firmly on track. The climactic battle sequence is wonderfully filmed and even some hand to hand combats are nicely choreographed and shot. The visual effects toggle between very good and ordinary. While every scene involving the Witch Queen is rendered beautifully, the same may not be said about some of the other sequences like the one where Kaulder is pulled underground by some highly saturated CGI tentacles. Still these mistakes can be ignored because of the amount of interest that the film generates.
The makeup, especially that of the witches is superbly done. Their faces will give you goosebumps. The background score is in keeping with the mood of the narrative and leaves no room for any complaints. Vin Diesel is great. He is what he is in every film and that is what we love about him. However he could have done a bit better had the narrative given him any chance to exercise his acting skills. Rose Leslie plays a witch with a heart of gold and she does a great job. Elijah Wood is likable as Diesel’s side kick. He still has the kind of pull that made him so much lovable in films like the Lord Of The Rings Trilogy.
What is it then that makes this film less than great? Well! To start with, the plot and the story don’t hold up after you have seen through the twists and turns. The believability factor really hits you in many sequences and dilutes the effect of the narrative. I know, I know, you will say that I am crazy to look for believability in a film rooted in fantasy right? Well, when we saw Superman for the first time, we did believe that a man could fly right? And that’s what made it such a phenomenal success. Here, even though we like what we see, we just never become a part of the world that our characters are in and that’s what failed me. The characters never affect you.
The visual effects falter here and there and most of the action sequences give you a feeling of being there and having seen it before. The dialogs are somewhat cheesy and stick out at many junctures. Since you never connect with the characters, whatever happens to them doesn’t bother you at all and so the tense moments lose their grasp and effect. Thus the film ultimately turns out less than satisfying. The Last Witch Hunter definitely deserves a view but I believe for most, it will be a onetime watch affair. At-least that was the case for me.