Oh, this is the last ‘Witch Hunter,’ all right

By Movie Man | Published Wednesday, October 28, 2015

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While the Movie Man often references box office results because it’s a blatant indicator of a movie’s acceptance, a film can be good – even great – and draw far fewer viewers than a crappy one that’s popular.

Looking at the pure numbers can be misleading; however, last week’s box office was like no other before – and “The Last Witch Hunter” was part of it.


All new releases/expanded releases last week tanked big time, but the big news was the failure of a quintet of movies: “Steve Jobs,” “Rock the Kasbah,” “Jem and the Holograms,” “Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension,” and “Witch Hunter.”

“Steve Jobs” had been performing well in a limited release, but it cratered as it went into more theaters and will soon be gone.

“Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension” performed more poorly than any other film in the series history by far.

But the real flop tales belong to “Rock the Kasbah” and “Jem and the Holograms.”

“Kasbah” absolutely tanked. Making just $1.8 million while being shown in 2,012 theaters, the movie became the fifth worst opening ever for a 2,000-plus theater release.

Fortunately for “Kasbah,” “Jem” arrived the same week. Despite a built-in audience of 30-something women and their little daughters, word got out that the entire premise of the 1980s cartoon had been altered into some kind of coming-of-age, modernized tale. That enraged the fan base ,and cyberspace was filled with demands for a boycott.

It must’ve worked. “Jem” made a minuscule $1.3 million in a whopping 2,413 theaters.

The real loser in the long run, however, is likely “Witch Hunter.” The other misfires of the week didn’t cost much to make. While “Witch Hunter” wasn’t a mega-expensive film, it ended up costing around $80 million and only took in about $11 million its first week.


In the Middle Ages, Kaulder (Vin Diesel) helped attack a Witch Queen who had unleashed a black plague on humanity. He appears to slay her. However, she not only struck him, but cursed him with immortality. If her heart keeps beating, Diesel will remain alive. So her heart is secretly stashed away.

In modern day, witches live clandestinely and govern themselves with Diesel taking out some bad ones and others being thrown in a hidden prison. Since being immortal, Diesel has had religious handlers – Dolans. The current one, No. 36 (Michael Caine), is old and wanting to retire. His replacement is No. 37, Elijah Wood.

After a bunch of figuring out of ancient spells and visiting creepy, underground venues, Diesel is joined by Wood and dreamwalker Chloe (Rose Leslie) to hunt down the evil heart before large minion Belial (Olafur Darri Olafsson) can get it to the rejuvenating Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht), who remains determined to set loose another plague.


Diesel has one mode – dull yet menacing – and his Kaulder is perfect for that. He can wield a mighty sword and his presence can fill the screen.

Caine is kind of slumming here. Still, in his late career, he always manages to make a movie better than it deserves.

The universe set up by this movie is super. The CG is as good as any you’ll see anywhere. The literal creation of the underworlds and olden days look real and deep.

There’s a sly “Fast and Furious” reference late that earns a chuckle.


The Witch Queen returns to power. She unleashes the plague, which is carried by flies. Humongous swarms of the insects – blackening the sky – rise amid the scores of New York skyscrapers, ready to do damage.

When the Queen is thwarted, the bugs fall dead from above. One still living slips under the window where Caine has been watching the proceedings from inside a tall building. He squishes the critter.


This plot has a zillion things going on and because of that it feels very episodic.

There’s some pretty bad dialogue here – not that you’d expect Sorkin – and it’s unintentionally funny when it comes from the hulking Diesel.

There are plenty of clich s here, too – Diesel is trying to get to his family in the afterlife; he can die in dreams; one character is only mostly dead; the “good guy” isn’t really good.

For its bombast and good looks, “Witch Hunter” leaves no lasting impression and part of that may be because of the forgettable ending.


This is a middling PG-13. There are a slew of creepy creatures – much like the drooling, fang-bearing monsters from “The Lord of the Rings” series – and they get chopped up regularly. But it’s not super graphic.


Don’t look for a series. This truly will likely be “The Last Witch Hunter,” which is too bad because there’s something here.


The Movie Man will decide whether to make it three horror movies in a row with “Scouts Guide to the Apocalypse” or get over his Tom Hanks guilt and go see “Bridge of Spies.”

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