"Would someone please give Vin Diesel a franchise he can be happy with?"
Would someone please give Vin Diesel a franchise he can be happy with?
Other than finding new ways to say 'I am Groot' and driving classic muscle cars really fast, Vin looks like he wants something in the sci-fi or fantasy genre that he can call his own. With 2013's Riddick putting the last nail in the coffin for that franchise, Vin has cast his eye over his past Dungeons & Dragons character sheets (seriously, that's this film's inspiration) to bring us The Last Witch Hunter.
After being cursed with eternal life for killing the last witch queen, Kalder (Vin Diessel) is recruited by a religious cabal to act as their weapon. Some 800 years later, he maintains the peace by enforcing a strict set of rules on magic users... yet an ancient threat may be about to shatter everything.
The Last Witch Hunter is an under-baked, ill executed beast. This script appears to have been passed over multiple times, but instead of developing and polishing it, the writers have instead crammed something new in with each pass. As a result the concepts are under-explored, and the plot lurches from one unlikely event to the next. Any attempt at world building is smothered under the weight of this poorly stitched together reality. In a world where 'a wizard did it' is actually a viable explanation, causality means nothing. Soon events just appear to happen at random, rather than the result of a carefully scripted and constructed plot.
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The other pressing issue is the threat level. Vin is always an immortal unstoppable killing machine, even when his curse is lifted. At no time do we ever feel he is in danger, or facing a threat that is equal to his skills. Vin might be a kick-arse swordsman with centuries of experience, but when his opponents are - a fat guy with a beard, a blind man with a cadre of butterflies, and an old woman….it just seems a little bit one-sided.
All of which is a pity, because underneath this schlock is an actor that desperately wants to engage with it, and has enough charisma to drag the audience along for the ride. Vin ain't Brando, but given the right vehicle he is a competent action star that commits to his role with a smile and a wink. Just the right sort of shoulders to hang a light weight urban fantasy action franchise around. Even here, he is having a lot of fun, and that is infectious. We as the viewer can feel that, and become invested despite ourselves. Unfortunately, The Last Witch Hunter is just too much of a mess to support it.
Urban fantasy is still a genre that has a lot of untapped potential, and despite its desperate attempts to mine it, The Last Witch Hunter leaves things that way. A failure in world and franchise building that still has a little fun to offer, if only for the enthusiasm of its star.
Originally published by X-Press Magazine