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Reviews » Blu-ray Reviews » The Last Witch Hunter (Blu-ray)
The Last Witch Hunter (Blu-ray)
Lionsgate Home Entertainment // PG-13 // February 2, 2016 // Region A
List Price: $39.99 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Oktay Ege Kozak | posted February 3, 2016 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie:

The Last Witch Hunter is yet another Men in Black rip-off with shades of Blade. We again get a secret underground team of humans hunting evil creatures that are hiding in the underbelly of a metropolitan city. But this time, instead of aliens or vampires, they hunt witches, and that's about as original as it gets. For most of its runtime, it's cynical, focus-grouped schlock, there's no doubt about that. But, intentional or not, it's entertainingly goofy and silly enough at times to slightly rise above other MiB rip-offs like R.I.P.D. (Remember that one? You don't? I'm not surprised).

What works about The Last Witch Hunter is director Breck Eisner and star Vin Diesel's dedication to keeping a straight face as they pummel the audience with endless made-up mumbo jumbo about the strictly B-movie fantasy universe that the film inhabits. There's something charming about the desperate attempt to create a lived-in fantasy world with thousands of years worth of culture, law, and mythology that would have felt bloated in a George RR Martin book series, and trying to cram it into a 105-minute mid-budget Vin Diesel vehicle (Pun intended).

Every minute of this movie is filled with exposition about the many different laws and sects of witches who live in secrecy among us, so much so that it becomes impossible not to laugh endearingly at its ambitious struggle to be taken seriously as a viable fantasy franchise starter, the way one would laugh at a toddler who thinks they're an astrophysicist simply because their daddy bought them a space shuttle toy for the holidays.

By the time Diesel's badass witch hunter begins giving a woefully overcomplicated monologue (Because when you need a comprehensible delivery of an overcomplicated monologue, you hire the Diesel) about a set of ancient witch stones that control the weather, you'd have to be a humorless square to not crack a smile at the schlocky stupidity on display.

Diesel plays Blade, sorry, Kaulder, an 800-year-old witch hunter cursed with immortality by a powerful witch he once slayed. In present time, he helps an underground team of priests hunt down witches who break the super secret truce that was once made between humans and "those with magic". When Dolan (Michael Caine, who looks visibly bored in yet another Alfred-type role), Kaulder's current sidekick in a series of priest sidekicks, ends up murdered by a mysterious evil witch, Kaulder realizes that he might have to face the forces of evil that forced him to become a witch hunter in the first place.

Along the way, Kaulder ends up having to protect a friendly witch named Chloe (Rose Leslie, the Linda Fiorentino or N'Bushe Wright of this flick), whose special skills of invading others' dreams ("Screw it, let's put Inception in there too!", said one coked-up executive) might come in handy. Elijah Wood, who's been embracing a career in hardcore genre material recently, has a bit of fun as Kaulder's new, inexperienced Dolan.

The Blu-ray:

Video:

As far as the visual palette goes, The Last Witch Hunter follows in the footsteps of recent fantasy/action fare, and relies heavily on a dark atmosphere and muted colors in order to settle on an eerie mood. The fact that darker visuals cover bad CGI is also a plus. The 1080p transfer does a great job of bringing the movie's not so unique look to home video. This is a clear presentation with decent contrast.

Audio:

Before getting to the big surround track, I want to mention how much I like it when Blu-rays and DVDs offer different tracks for different types of listening. Not only does The Last Witch Hunter's Blu-ray offers a lossy DTS 2.0 track for stereo set-ups, and descriptive audio for the blind and seeing impaired, it also has a 2.0 track optimized for headphone listening. The lossless DTS-HD 7.1 track is not groundbreaking in relation to bigger budget blockbuster fare (That might be due to a lack of memorable set pieces), but gets the job done with a dynamic mix and plenty of surround presence.

Extras:

Crafting the Magic: This half-hour featurette goes a little bit further than a standard short EPK, but it's not a tell-all making-of documentary either.

Animated Short Films: Four animated shorts, clocking in at around 9 minutes total, that expand on the film's mythology. The first one uses the voice-over from the beginning of the film. I wonder if it was recorded for the animated short first, and was inserted into the movie at the last minute, because it feels very awkward in the finished film. The 2D, hand-drawn animation style here is beautiful, far more creative than anything in the feature itself.

Sizzle Reel: A useless short music video using images from the film. The emo cover of perhaps the greatest Rolling Stones song is terrible.

Commentary by Breck Eisner: Eisner mostly sticks to technical information during this informative commentary. For hardcore fans only.

Final Thoughts:

The Last Witch Hunter is derivate of a lot of blockbuster sci-fi/fantasy material, and doesn't really do anything original with their legacy. The third act screams of extensive reshoots and rewrites, full of "twists" that were not telegraphed or even hinted at anywhere in the first two acts. Yet there's an undeniable goofiness in it that feels fun, at least for a while. Maybe it has something to do with Vin Diesel being a huge Dungeons & Dragons nerd, and the glee in his voice when he reads a ridiculous line like "He's a level four warlock" is infectious.

Oktay Ege Kozak is a film critic and screenwriter based in Portland, Oregon. He also writes for The Playlist, The Oregon Herald, and Beyazperde.com

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