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Oct 26, 2013

I have been trying to write a decent review of this movie for ages, but I keep getting distracted by how much I want their set-dresser to be my interior decorator. I will try to edit those comments out.

There were a zillion complaints about this movie when it came out, because everyone assumed that a movie involving witches, released in October, would be a horror movie. It is definitely not horror. "Urban Fantasy" is a subset of fantasy novels that are set in the present day, and magical races are hiding amongst us humans, struggling to avoid detection. In this case, witches, which are a supposedly-separate species from humans in the movie's mythology.

Kaulder (Vin Diesel) was cursed with immortality by the witch queen who caused the Black Death, as he killed her and helped burn her magic tree down. Skip ahead to modern times. There is now a Catholic order (the Axe and Cross) who assist Kaulder in keeping the witches in line. After a few hundred years of ruthlessly tracking them down and killing them, he got tired of killing ("showed mercy") and allowed a truce: Witches can use magic on each other, but if they use it against humans, he'll come kill the specific witches that did it. Every now and then, a cabal arrises that tries to kill him off. The one in the movie wants to resurrect the witch queen and restart the Black Death, allowing witches to conquer and possibly exterminate humans. Much running around is done to collect clues, and several fights ensue.

Kaulder's immortality includes magical healing ability. A knife is stabbed through his hand; he pulls it out and heals up in 2 seconds without bleeding. This allows him to use. . . let's call it hysterical strength. . . as a regular fighting tool, as he has had tons of practice being a berserker and doesn't have to worry about pulling a muscle or putting his back out. He also has some enchanted objects to use, such as a ring that lights up and burns witches/gives them a little jolt like static electricity.

Father Dolan is his personal priest/historian. They are all named Dolan, after the priest that was with the war party that invaded the witch queen's tree during the Black Death. Number 36 (Michael Kaine) is retiring, and Number 37 (Elijah Wood) is getting sworn in.

Chloe (Rose Leslie) is a witch; she has a bar that caters to witches only, no humans allowed. (Insert rapturous spiel about her gorgeous bar and Really Cool Magic Lights here.) She is the type who romanticizes monsters and villains, which she finds out is just a teensy bit dumb. She gets roped into helping track down the witch queen.

Good things: 1) Diesel's character is noticeably less of an rear end in a top hat than his more famous roles (Toretto, Riddick). 2) They had 3 different special effects companies, and lovely special effects. 3) They used at least 3 versions of the flaming sword, because nerds, trying to find the best way to make a flaming sword that wouldn't light their actor on fire. 4) As far as I can tell, they only lapse into D&D-speak in one line, calling someone a "fourteenth-level warlock." 5) They simplified magic by only using the European system (Earth/Air/Fire/Water, tarot cards, pentagrams, runes), rather than trying to explain every different mythological system on the planet. Doing so would make a good master's thesis, but a lousy movie. 6) They invented their own fake runic alphabet, so as not to endorse any current rune-using groups by accident.

Things that will throw non-fantasy fans off: 1) A lot of the magic that takes place is never remarked upon, like Chloe's color-changing hair, and most of the magic is not explained. 2) They don't always talk like modern New Yorkers; they lapse into somewhat melodramatic Fantasy Phrasing at times. 3) "Fourteenth-level warlock" is a pretty eye-rolling phrase. It only occurs once, fortunately. 4) It takes a while to figure out how they delineate reality from illusion, cinematically, because it is not explained. (The colors are super-vivid during illusions.)

Bad things: 1) Kaulder's NYC penthouse apartment is . . . a white marble palace (they used an old bank). Given that Pres. Trump's NYC penthouse is white marble, this might be taken as a political endorsement. There is no gold leaf, at least. It is decorated with a lot of really cool mementos from his 800 years of escapades, but we never get to really look closely at them. (Insert more comments about decorating.) 2) "Fourteenth-level warlock" may cause eye-roll-induced injuries. 3) Even I want more explication of the magic system. 4) It's PG-13, which is never good for an action movie, magical or not.

There. I hope that all made sense and didn't scare you away from my new favorite movie with my obvious delight in the locations/sets/effects. Kick back, put on your disbelief suspenders, and have fun spotting magic and chasing witches. Did I mention that I really, really like Chloe's potion bar?

GoodyTwoShoes fucked around with this message at 20:19 on Oct 27, 2017


El Perkele
Nov 7, 2002


I can't even call the right one bad.

This thing showed up in my Netflix feed and, in a moment of weakness, I lapsed and decided to watch it.

In Blade, Wesley Snipes plays a vampire, Blade, with superhuman powers who kills vampires. He is helped by a grumpy old man and a random civilian. Snipes must navigate through vampire society, with which he has a sort of uneasy truce, to prevent the return of ancient evil. There's also techno, hilarious CGI gore and a completely bizarre attitude to everything. There's blood everywhere.

In The Last Witch Hunter, Vin Diesel plays a cursed witch hunter, Kaulder, with superhuman powers who sometimes kills witches. He is helped by a toothless cabal of priests and a random witch. Diesel must navigate through witch society, with which he has a truce, to prevent the return of ancient evil. There are also pens and time travel. There are swarms of flies everywhere.

There's very little to be said about The Last Witch Hunter, except it's a sea of lost opportunities. The movie teeters on the edge of being a warm and humane movie that would be at least a bit aware of itself, only to always pull itself back to noisy, dull action with formulaic plot and character arcs. With a touch more humor - which should be an easy task with Diesel and Leslie - and much less needless action it would be a fun fantasy action flick, but now it's yet another failed attempt.


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