THE LAST WITCH HUNTER. Starring Vin Diesel, Michael Caine, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood, Olafur Darri Olafsson, Rena Owen, Judy Engelbrecht, Isaach de Bankole. Directed by Breck Eisner. 106 minutes. Rated M (Supernatural themes and horror).
For any audience who has always wanted to see Michael Caine on screen as a priest, at last an opportunity. After more than 50 years in films, he is still a significant screen presence.
Not that every Michael Caine fan would necessarily want to see the The Last Witch Hunter. It is one of those action adventures, a blend of the historical and the contemporary, overtones of witchcraft and the demonic, scenes back in the Middle Ages where the wicked Queen Witch is unleashing the black plague over Europe, eerie battles in dark and caves, then to contemporary New York City (where, according to American films, so many apocalyptic crises have to take place).
As one can tell by the title of the film, it is one of those stories with a graphic novel imagination. And this is a special project for Vin Diesel who is one of the producers as well as the star – a bit more humane and sometimes smiling than his Fast and Furious outings… But, he is the action hero, the witch hunter, whose destiny is to save the world.
The Medieval scenes definitely have an atmosphere, though an unrecognisable Diesel (hair and beard) has a robustly difficult time confronting and destroying one of those special effect hags with a threatening and sinister voice.
To continue with the atmosphere, there is a transition to Abu Dhabi airlines (strong product placement) and a young which on board the plane causing an enormous storm which alarms the passengers – but the hunter, Kalder, takes the witch to task, calms the storm and makes a date with the flight attendant. And this brings him to New York City in the present, when he continues his witch hunting, cursed by the Queen with immortality and his having to adapt for over 800 years to each generation. (He is particularly up-to-date on IT, taunting Michael Caine’s priest about having an IPad - with Caine later squashing a sinister beetle with his book and remarking that you couldn’t do this with an iPad!).
The reason that Michael Caine appears is that he is the 36th in a line of priests who belong to the organisation, The Axe and the Cross, protectors of the witch hunter. He is about to retire and, of all people, Elijah Wood, is to be his successor, a very earnest young priest, diligent about his mission and trying to learn.
The other principal character is a witch, Chloe, who runs a bar with New York witches as her clientele. Kalder helps her and she then supports him in his quest for the disciples of the Queen and, eventually, the Queen herself whose heart has been preserved by her disciples and in their plan for her comeback for the 21st century world.
One doesn’t have to be a genius to work out what happens, especially the final confrontation – though there is a twist with one of the characters that might have been anticipated.
The Last Which Hunter doesn’t pretend to be anything else than it is, a comic-book action show – and that is what it achieves.
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Universal. Released October 21st.