By: Akram Shaban
The Last Witch Hunter was not received well by most critics. The poor soul of a medium did not even make it to the proverbial slaughterhouse before reviewers butchered the very essence of its existence. But, despite what my name may imply, you have to try a little hard to get me to hate a movie, even a bad one. And compared to some movies that I do in fact despise to the core, Vin Diesel the movie is not all that bad.
First I’ll point out some of the things that I didn’t hate. I did not mind the excessive CGI, I did not think it was distracting. I did not mind the mediocre plot too much. And the acting did not make me want to poke my eyes out in an Oedipus-like fashion (spoiler alert for those who haven’t heard this ancient story).
Now, to address the title of this edition. If all you care about is a good story, top notch acting (which the movie did more or less have), and reasonable computer effects, then don’t watch the movie. But if you prefer to look past those things and look for subtleties in the story and themes, then look no further. There is one thing that kept me, personally, engaged in the story: the concept of immortality and bipolar power dynamics.
As the trailer for the film indicates, Kaulder (Diesel) was cursed with immortality by a witch queen presumably as a punishment for killing her. But what kind of punishment is immortality? How is living forever supposed to suck for Kaulder? Now some might refer to the extensive record of “immortality based” plots of other movies, TV shows, novels etc., to answer the question. Loneliness, the burden of fighting evil and never getting a rest, constantly having to worry about being exposed, and, probably worst of all, constantly dying mortal loved ones and friends, forcing the protagonist to refrain from forming attachments (which adds to the loneliness); these are all examples that pop to mind. They are probably overused plot devices and are not the only ones used to add substance to the plot of the movie. There is the female supporting character who betrays her witch friends to fight with the good guys (also indicated by the trailer). And there is the Inception–Matrix-esque cliché of the “if you die in there you die in the real world” nature. Nope, the movie screams no originality.
But there is one more reason for the immortality which had me thinking. (The actual reason is explained in the movie, which I won’t spoil). If you’ve seen other movies, such as The Wolverine, the immortal protagonist is sometimes given a way out. It is perceived as freedom from some kind of prison. And a pattern is followed. The protagonist becomes mortal for a short while, realizes that it is crucial for him (or her) to remain immortal, and ex-machina his way back to immortality. Why the need for immortality? Because there is always going to be evil lurking in the unknown. Defeat one evil and something worse will come afterward. So there needs to be something to prevent the worst from happening, to freeze the transit of evil. And the best way to do it is by Cold Warring the heck out of the problem. Applying the Ying and Yang. No God and Satan? (the movie doesn’t touch on that topic). No problem! All you need is a long lasting, incorruptible good guy, (who is nonetheless vulnerable in his own way, and therefore, exploitable) and a manageable evil whose sole existence is to prevent the worst from replacing it. Of course, I’m not saying that there were a good and a bad guy during the Cold War, but the threat of nuclear destruction is what prevented nuclear destruction (and other things too, please don’t grill me). I have a feeling that what might replace the witches will not care very much for them. So the bad guys have something to gain from it too (maybe, not sure).
And I think the movie did a pretty good job at relaying the theme to the audience. It teased the pseudo-plot twist in a decent way. I refrained from thinking about its predictability and decided to focus on the effort to hint at the climax. Significant attention was given for the necessity for the dream world. The lead up to the final fight (which I must admit was underwhelming), did have me thinking about the importance of power in maintaining order. Our enemies are what give us and take away the drive to defeat them.
Maybe I liked the movie because I don’t watch too many like it, so I haven’t gotten sick of the repetitiveness. Some claim that there wasn’t much witch hunting in the movie, leading them to conclude that it was confused about what it wanted to be. But that appeals to me somehow. It’s like an expensive, well filmed, mid-life crisis. Flawed, vulnerable, much like the characters, with unreached potential. I must say, I appreciate bad movies.
The Last Witch Hunter ultimately falls apart and only musters a D