I hold movies to the same standard as people: if you can’t be good, you should at least be fun. “The Last Witch Hunter,” starring inarticulate golem Vin Diesel as an immortal Catholic tasked with keeping the peace between witches and regular folk, fails to be either. Instead, director Breck Eisner (“The Crazies,” “Sahara”) opts for chaotic action and half-baked digital effects, all in the service of a thin story with no interesting characters.
Oh, and the film desperately, DESPERATELY wants to be the beginning of a franchise, too. Which is always a great motive for making a movie.
Diesel plays a lumpen marble-mouth named Kaulder, on whom the Witch Queen placed a curse back in the 13th century that he would never die. Then he killed her. (Witch, curse thyself!) Today, he travels the world (but mostly New York City), arresting witches who disobey the rule not to use magic against humans. He’s assisted in this by a priest called a Dolan. His new one, Dolan 37 (Elijah Wood), is going to help him solve the murder of Dolan 36 (Michael Caine, who was around just long enough to be an exposition-providing narrator). A collaborator witch named Chloe (Rose Leslie), who is a Dreamwalker (it doesn’t matter), is also lending a hand.
The screenplay, by the writers of “Dracula Untold” and “Priest,” is loaded with references to a complex mythology that could make this a fascinating world, if it were developed and those references were explained. But it skips over the more immediate concern: making THIS story and THESE characters compelling. Kaulder cannot be killed, and doesn’t seem to be tormented by that fact. (“You know what I’m afraid of?” he says. “Nothing. It’s boring, really.” YEAH, NO KIDDING.) For most of the film, he’s trying to regain his memory of the day the Witch Queen cursed him, as he believes he will find clues there regarding the death of Dolan 36. But his reason for believing that is nothing more than a vague clue left by the dying Dolan — hardly enough to hang the whole plot on it.
And so we are disappointed, not because “The Last Witch Hunter” is bad (we sort of expected that), but because it’s not even the enjoyable kind of bad. More filmmakers need to learn that we’ll go along with any fantasy premise, no matter how ludicrous, as long as you show us a good time. Boring us with random details and dry stories won’t cut it.
D (1 hr., 46 min.; )