Vin Diesel has pretty much become the lovable doofus of Hollywood. Whether it’s through his social media, where the actor posts videos of himself dancing or lobbying his way into roles like he did with Groot in Guardians of the Galaxy, or as a producer of the last four Fast & Furious movies, the actor carries himself with an earnest goofiness that you can’t help but like the grumbling star. Another facet of Diesel’s earnest nerdery is his affection for Dungeons and Dragons, something that the actor and producer has never hidden in interviews, which is obviously the inspiration behind Vin Diesel’s latest project The Last Witch Hunter. Though all of Vin Diesel’s silly charms can’t save The Last Witch Hunter from its underwhelming story and confusing mythology.
The film opens 800 years ago, Kaulder (Diesel) is leading a group of men to slay the evil Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht), who has spread pestilence and plague across the nearby villages, claiming the lives of Kaulder’s wife and daughter. With his flaming sword, Kaulder slays the Queen but she places a curse on him that will leave him with eternal life. Over the next 800 years, Kaulder would be the enforcer for a truce between humanity and witches. An order of priests known as the Dolans have taken a vow to assist and chronicle the life of Kaulder in his never-ending quest against evil. The 36th Dolan (Michael Caine) is about to retire and the 37th (Elijah Wood) is ready to take his place besides Kaulder. When a witch places a curse upon the 36th Dolan, Kaulder must search through his past to find out who is trying to upset the peace that has governed the world for centuries. Enlisting the help of Chloe (Rose Leslie), a witch with powers over the mind, Kaulder must ensure that the peace between worlds will not be broken.
Screenwriters Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama, and Buck Sharpless fill The Last Witch Hunter with a dense mythology that will likely turn off those who aren’t intense fans of fantasy, but also slows the film down as much of what we’re about to witness has to be explained in order for it to retain some semblance of coherency. The greatest weakness of The Last Witch Hunter is its lack of memorable or interesting characters. Kaulder is basically Dominic Toretto with a flaming sword, retaining much of the qualities of loyalty and being just an all-around swell guy. Of course, his curse of immortality doesn’t make for much in the way of compelling tension because the guy is invincible. Yet it’s the lack of interesting villain that leaves much of The Last Witch Hunter so cold, as Kaulder is forced to fight various unmemorable witches that have no motivation or characteristics beyond the fact that they’re witches.
The Last Witch Hunter does have moments of nice production design, its sets and characters alternate between generic and actually interesting. But director Breck Eisner has much of the action take place in such dark surroundings that the moments with triumphant design are drowned out by a darkened atmosphere. That darkness also undermines the action sequences, as Eisner’s camera shakes in the darkened corridors as Vin Diesel and company take down various non-descript witches. Aside from the bookend scenes of Kaulder wielding his flaming sword, there’s little memorable about the action of The Last Witch Hunter.
While not quite an abject failure, any given scene in The Last Witch Hunter is like a roll of a 20-sided dice – it can go so many different ways. It can either be a genuinely funny scene or one that is overflowing with unintentional laughter. It can either be a scene of impressive design and unimpressive action or a scene of just bland exposition filled with storytelling cheats and ineffective twists. The Last Witch Hunter is film that will appeal to the larger fantasy crowd than it will to others. Simply, The Last Witch Hunter has Vin Diesel doing some D&D LARPing in front of the cameras. Whether that’s something you want to see depends entirely on your own personal tastes.