Normally I try not to look at other rating sites before reviewing a movie but this time I happened to see it. At the time of this writing, Rotten Tomatoes had given The Last Witch Hunter a scathing 14% – holy crap people hated this film! I didn’t. Maybe it’s because I crush on Vin Diesel so hard (and I really do). Maybe it’s because I just watched Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension (Rotten Tomatoes gave it 13%) and have my expectations have been set extra, extra low. Maybe it’s because this movie is exactly in my wheelhouse, genre-wise. I don’t know. Whatever the reason happened to be, I loved this film.
When I go through my own personal checklist of whether a movie did good or not, I just can’t see much wrong with this film. It was so carefully made and worked so hard to set itself up to succeed. There was a good cast. Vin Diesel was why I went to see this film of course but there was also Michael Caine and Elijah Wood. It was written exactly to formula but please don’t take that as a criticism – it’s not. It’s a recipe and it still exists because it works. Plus it’s beautiful to look at. Film is a visual medium and a movie succeeds when it remembers that.
You can probably come up with reasons to be disappointed. There was a certain predictability, for one thing. Vin Diesel only really plays one type of character: the sarcastic bad-ass who plays by his own rules and is impossible to kill. He’s a bit of a Mary-Sue, whether he’s a silver-eyed assassin, a street racer, a daredevil stuntman or whatever. Never mind how much I like that character, or why. This iteration is my favorite of them all, I think. He’s more vulnerable than past Vin Diesels and Kaulder is not the same at the end of the movie as he is at the beginning.
The writing was so good – I liked the dialogue and the pacing was spot on. This movie could be a case study for a film class: every scene had a purpose. We are given a goal for the character at the beginning of the film just as soon as the basic premise is set up. That goal changes exactly half way through and appears to be completely unattainable at exactly the end of Act 2. These are not spoilers, you can read this sort of thing in any script writing text book and every movie worth its salt follows it carefully. They even followed the Chekov’s Gun rule – “If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off.”
I loved seeing the world of the Witches. There were so many different types of witches and each one has their own little beautifully complex and unique setting. They had a social structure that made sense, a reason for being what they are and doing what they do and it was a joy to look at.
Was this Movie Chinese Food? Probably, I’ll admit, but I want to see this movie again and the sequel when it comes out. Because of course there will be a sequel and if it’s even half as carefully done, I will love it.
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