Revealing More than One of The Last Witch Hunter’s RPG Roots, a Review

15 Nov

By Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)

The_Last_Witch_Hunter_posterIf Dungeons and Dragons (D&D) can include centuries spanning narratives that leads to modern-day, then The Last Witch Hunter is an ideal way to introduce the concept. Vin Diesel plays Kaulder, a role-playing character turned into a cinematic one, out to destroy all witches. This ranger-class warrior hunts them down because he believes most of them are inherently evil. In the film, they were once led by a queen bent on destroying all of humanity. When she was defeated long ago, she cursed Kaulder to eternal life and he’s fated to roam the earth like a Wandering Jew.

Fast forward to modern-day, this soldier shows no sign of slowing down. He works for an order called The Axe and Cross and helps maintain a truce between mortals and supernatural. This world of darkness (WoD) feels borrowed from White Wolf Publishing and that’s when this film’s role-playing underpinnings starts to show. Gaming geeks can appreciate the world building going on but well-practiced storytellers might shake their heads at the plot. There’s a plan to bring about the witch-queens resurrection and the excitement for seeing this come to fruition falls limp by the third act. The direction is just not there; Breck Eisner may not have understood the material well. If he played more WoD and D&D then he might have had more insight in how to blend the world of the present day with the supernatural with panache. There are times the narrative wants to branch out to reveal what the masquerade is all about but it’s all held back. One intriguing immortal character is a witch who steals beauty from the models of a fashion show but when gazed upon through a mirror, her true appearance shows. In this film, there are many secrets.

When there’s an interesting back story that’s worth following more than the plot itself, that makes for an uneven film. There’s a life to Kaulder which does not get fully revealed. He loves his wife and son from long ago and this world does not believe in reincarnation. That may seem odd, but that’s okay since it tells viewers that each soul in this realm is unique. There are no second chances. This detail is hardly emphasized when put into a bigger picture, since Kaulder has an option put a finality to his quest.

He denies having a heart and the only person he cares for is a keeper (Sir Michael Caine) who records his adventures. When it’s time for him to retire, Kaulder feels some loss. More about these two character’s relationship needs exploration. Are they like Alfred and Bruce in Batman? The writing team of Cory Goodman, Matt Sazama and Burk Sharpless missed an opportunity to delve deeper into the 50 or so years they spent together.

When the next caretaker (Elijah Wood) is assigned to watch over Kaulder, that can make for interesting comparisons in an otherwise dull film. The first two acts are fastidious enough to grab interest but it let’s go. There’s not enough momentum to get to the end. Even then, the adventures are not over for the Witch Hunter. Some folks may well wonder if Kaulder will run into Van Helsing in the future.

2 out of 5 Stars

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