Funny thing about Vin Diesel: for an actor who has been around for over two decades, he has a pretty limited filmography. If you look at his actor credits on IMDB he’s credited with 36 items. But if you look deeper, you’ll see that many of them are for video games, shorts or even TV events. When it comes down to it almost all of his film appearances are for The Fast and Furious films or Riddick (let’s not talk about The Pacifier).
Vin Diesel is a truly rare sight in Hollywood. He’s an actor who pretty much does whatever he wants, and as a self-confessed fan of ‘nerdy stuff’ like Dungeons & Dragons, he seems to only take on films that give him a large amount of creative control and a chance to indulge in some form of fantasy wish-fulfillment.
So it makes sense that his newest film is already a ‘franchise-in-waiting’ that allows him to be another otherworldly badass. Yes, The Last Witch Hunter is now out in theaters.
The gist of the film is that, 800 years ago, Kaulder (Diesel) was part of a group that successfully ended the threat of the Witch Queen, an evil creature that wanted to destroy pitiful humanity with a black plague delivered by corpse flies. As the Queen died, she cursed Kaulder with immortality.
Jump to today, and Kaulder works for an organization called The Axe and Cross which helps to keep witches and warlocks in check. You see, some people have the genetic ability to harness magic and they’re considered not-quite-people. Their abilities make them a threat if they wish to cause havoc, but most witches just want to live a peaceful life.
Of course, that’s only ‘most’ witches.
The story gets going when Father Dolan (Michael Caine) finally retires as Kaulder’s 36th Dolan (the priests tasked with helping Kaulder and recording all his deeds). His 37th Dolan is Elijah Wood, and the kid is not quite prepared to be of much help when shit starts to get crazy.
Something happens to a friend of Kaulder and the rest of the story revolves around unravelling the mystery of who did it and why. During the adventure, he runs into Chloe (Rose Leslie), a witch who doesn’t run in fear from him (too much) and even lends a hand from time-to-time. Otherwise, it’s the Vin Diesel show.
The special effects are pretty good, from magical ‘attacks’ like fire and creepy grasping tentacles to a decent menagerie of creatures, to include the rotting wood look of the Queen herself. There’s a lot of dream sequences and time-hopping and you can almost never tell it’s green-screened.
As for the action, there’s a bit less of it than I expected there to be and if you were hoping for some well choreographed sword-fights, you’re out of luck. Remember, Kaulder and the Dolans are the only non-witches in the film. Most of the fights involve Kaulder dodging or defeating magic, then murdering people up-close.
Then there’s the dialogue. Look, I really like Vin Diesel, but it was weird hearing him talk so much. I’m so used to him being the guy who hoards his words as if they were gold, it took me a good amount of the film to get comfortable with him being the driving verbal force. That, and his smiles seemed off.
The Last Witch Hunter is exactly what you’d expect it to be. It’s fun but not amazing, the action is good but not great, and the plot is as silly as it should be. Fans of fantasy should get a kick out of it but people who don’t like the genre might not find much to love. Maybe they’ll fix those problems in The Last Witch Hunter 2 (I’m not joking).