As part of their first wave of 4K Ultra HD releases Lionsgate has put out the Vin Diesel vehicle The Last Witch Hunter in the 2160p format. It's a fun action flick with a nice mythology, and it looks and sounds fantastic in this new format. While no one would accuse it of being a classic of the genre, the plot is pretty thin and rather predictable, it does create an interesting world, comes with a very intense soundtrack, and has some nice special effects.
In the Middle Ages, a small group of warriors have managed to track The Witch Queen, ruler of all of her kind, which is a separate breed from humans. The soldiers are seeking revenge for the deaths of their loved ones, and since they have nothing to go back to, they would gladly die to kill her. Of course attacking a powerful magician in her stronghold is never a good idea, but while things go badly, on warrior, Kaulder (Vin Diesel) manages to survive long enough to run his sword through the evil queen. As she's dying however, she curses her killer. She can see that he's actually longing for death, so she grabs his heart and bestows him with immortality.
Cut to the present day. Kaulder has been hunting witches for 800 years, and is pretty good at it by now. He no longer kills them however. Humans and witches are now at peace with the latter ruled by the witch council. If a witch uses a spell on humans, Kaulder, working for the mysterious human organization known as The Axe and Cross, tracks them down and hands them over to the council who lock them up.
Kaulder's right hand man is known as Dolan (Michael Caine), he's actually the 36th "Dolan" in a long line of aides to the immortal witch hunter. The 36th Dolan is retiring, having served Kaulder for 50 years, but the day after he quits, he turns up dead in his apartment. Looking into the death, Kaulder discovers that not only was the 36th Dolan murdered, but that there is a plot to resurrect the Witch Queen. So with the assistance of the new Dolan (Elijah Wood) and a plucky witch named Chloe (Rose Leslie) who runs a bar, Kaulder finds himself fighting a battle he thought he won centuries ago.
This is half of a really good movie. There's a lot going for it, as there are a lot of interesting ideas floating around in the film. The problem is that they don't coalesce in a satisfying manner. For every idea that they explain in a satisfying way, there are two that leave viewers scratching their heads. (Is Kaulder the only Witch Hunter? Apparently so. Why doesn't the Axe and Cross train someone to help him?) There are some plot holes too, and most of the twists that they story takes can be seen from way off.
But there are some strong points. The sets are great, and the world that they craft for witches in absorbing. The special effects are well done and that, along with a very dynamic soundtrack, make for a decent night's entertainment, as long as you're not expecting too much.
The Ultra HD Disc:
This 2-disc UHD set includes a 4K disc and a Blu-ray. The Blu-ray seems to be identical with the earlier HD released of this movie.
I really enjoyed the image on Lionsgate's Ultra HD disc. There are a lot of dark scenes in the film (the beginning taking place in the Middle Ages and the climax that takes place underground for example) and 2.40:1, 2160p transfer reproduced them nicely. The details in the shadows can be discerned and the level of detail in these darker areas is impressive. The brighter scenes are just as impressive with the colors really popping and the definition being excellent. The only problem I encountered was a brief moment of banding, something that also occurred in the other 4K Ultra HD title I've seen, The Expendables 3. It's a bit disappointing that this is still a problem even with this greatly improved resolution.
I liked the picture, but was blown away by the audio. The DTS:X track (DTS' answer to Dolby's Atmos format) was very impressive. The audio really pulls viewers into the movie starting with the first scenes. There is a lot of signal thrown to the surround speakers and the whole room quickly fills with directional audio. Your subwoofer will get a workout too, with a lot of low effects being utilized in the battle scenes that really give the soundtrack a punch. If you like movies where there is a lot going on sonically, you'll enjoy this one.
The extras are all on the Blu-ray disc and therefore none of them are in Ultra HD. They are the same ones found on the earlier BR release. First off is a commentary track by director Breck Eisner who covers the making of the film in a nice, breezy manner. He talks about the cast and crew as well as technical matters such as how various special effects shorts were filmed. There's also a half-hour long featurette, Crafting the Magic: The Last Witch Hunter, that's fun if a bit light. My favorite bonus items were the four animated shorts that flesh out the world of Witch Hunter. They run 2-3 minutes each and are well drawn.
A flawed film yet a fun one, this movie does a very good job of showing off what an Ultra HD setup can do. With a dynamic soundtrack that will give your speakers a workout and a story that's not great, but entertaining never the less, this release comes recommended.????????