It’s impossible to know what really lurks in the shadows, concealed in the darkness. It’s difficult to know the true nature of anything without being permitted behind the curtain, where there are no masks or secrets. Countless stories are built around what goes bump in the night; that which chooses to remain unseen to the untrained eye. Clandestine meeting places, councils and laws rule their existence, ensuring the general public’s continued ignorance. The Last Witch Hunter is an eternal enforcer who makes sure no harm comes to the unenlightened.
Kaulder (Vin Diesel) is a 13th century warrior who was tasked with destroying the Witch Queen before she exterminated the human race; in return he was granted immortality, forever charged with protecting people from wicked witches. He works for the Axe and Cross, an equally ancient sect that negotiated a truce with the witches that has been upheld for centuries by punishing those who violate the treaty. Kaulder’s guardian and confidante, Dolan 36 (Michael Caine), is retiring and while this upsets the warrior, he is more disturbed by the evil threatening to raze the city with long-forgotten dark magic. With the help of Dolan 37 (Elijah Wood) and Chloe (Rose Leslie), a young witch, Kaulder must reach into his deepest past to fight the malevolence that endangers his present.
Loosely based on a Dungeons and Dragons character, Kaulder is a skilled fighter and has adapted to the technologies of the modern world. His employers refer to him as “the weapon” and he lives up to the name, recovering magic items from undeserving hands and capturing witches abusing their powers so they can face the judgement of the Witches’ Council. Diesel is undoubtedly up to the physical challenge of the movie, battling giant skeleton spiders and evil warlocks. However in spite of retaining the typical Diesel charm seen in the far-from-serious Fast & the Furious movies, everyone seems to be taking this movie rather sincerely. There are hints of playfulness in a few scenes with a wink here and sly smile there, but mostly lost opportunities to revel in the story’s outrageousness.
That’s not to say it’s not fun, but it had the potential for more. A larger problem is the film’s plot development. Rather than naturally working information into the narrative, Kaulder is often found explaining the story’s more intricate elements like an extraneous narrator to his own tale. Being talked at is increasingly less interesting than watching and learning on the go via a well-crafted script. However the worst violation is the glossing over of a significant plot point, which causes substantial confusion for audiences. Suddenly a character possesses an item key to their overall plan, but there’s no indication of how or where they got it even though its acquirement should have been especially difficult. It’s quite a vexing oversight.
In the end, it appears filmmakers focused too much on the visual components over producing a movie that could deliver some action-packed enjoyment without expecting its viewers to be totally distracted by the flashing lights.