Last Witch Hunter, The (Blu-ray) (2015)

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Released 3-Feb-2016

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Featurette-Making Of-Crafting the Magic: The Last Witch Hunter (30:20)
Short Film-Animated Short Films: The Origins of the Axe and the Cross
Music Video-The Last Witch Hunter Sizzle Reel / Paint It, Black
Deleted Scenes-x 2 (5:43)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2015
Running Time 106:34 (Case: 153)
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 2,4 Directed By Breck Eisner
Studio
Distributor
Entertainment One Starring Vin Diesel
Michael Caine
Elijah Wood
Olafu Darri Olafsson
Rose Leslie
Julie Engelbrecht
Joseph Gilgun


Case Standard Blu-ray
RPI ? Music Steve Jablonsky


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English DTS HD Master Audio 7.1
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.40:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 1080p
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English for the Hearing Impaired Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

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Plot Synopsis

     The Last Witch Hunter starts in Medieval Europe: a group of warriors track across an icy landscape amid a snowstorm. They are hunting the Witch Queen, a witch who has brought the black plague to Europe, causing many deaths. Within the roots of a massive, magic tree they find the Witch Queen (Julie Engelbrecht); she is killed by Kaulder (Vin Diesel) but before she dies she places the curse of immortality upon him. Eight hundred years later, in New York, Kaulder is the Witch Hunter, the servant of a secret religious order called the Axe and Cross; under a peace pact between witches and humans witches may live and work among humans and practice their magic powers, provided they do not use the magic upon humans. Kaulder is the enforcer of the peace, punishing any witch who breaks the agreement although Kaulder does not normally kill the witches he hunts because their transgression is often accidental, the witch in question not understanding their powers. A member of the Axe and Cross, always named Dolan, acts as Kaulder’s mentor, helper and chronicler. The current Dolan, Dolan 36th (Michael Caine), has been with Kaulder for over fifty years and is about to retire to be replaced by Dolan 37th (Elijah Wood).

     On the night before he is due to retire Dolan 36th is attacked by a witch and left in a trance. Dolan 36th, however, managed to leave Kaulder a message in his journal, urging Kaulder to search into his deepest medieval memories for a clue to the attack. Kaulder goes to the downtown Memory Bar, a witch only bar run by Chloe (Rose Leslie). She reluctantly agrees to provide Kaulder with a memory potion, but before Kaulder can delve fully into his memories he is attacked by Belial (Olafu Darri Olafsson) who burns the memory bar to the ground, destroying the potion. After another two attempts to obtain the ingredients for the memory potion are also thwarted by Belial, it is revealed that Chloe is in fact a Dreamwalker, a witch who can reach into the memories of others. With her Kaulder learns that the Witch Queen was not destroyed and that Belial is on the brink of bring her back to unleash another plague upon humanity. As Kaulder and Chloe seek a way to stop the resurrection, it seems that the Order of the Axe and Cross have kept an important secret from Kaulder, and that further betrayals are about to happen.

     It is obvious from the extras on the Blu-ray that The Last Witch Hunter is Vin Diesel’s project and that it was intended to be the start of a franchise with the star; the end of The Last Witch Hunter sets up a sequel and a second film was announced even before the release of the first but this sequel is currently in doubt due to the poor US box office of The Last Witch Hunter, which also currently stands at 16% on Rotten Tomatoes, not a good recommendation. The film was directed by Breck Eisner, an interesting choice for an extravagant CGI film; other than a couple of TV episodes his filmography includes only Sahara (2005) and The Crazies (2010) and under his direction the CGI in The Last Witch Hunter gets out of control, swamping the human element. Some of the CGI is quite good, and certainly acceptable in a fantasy type adventure such as the snow falling indoors or an overgrown New York, but other sections of CGI including the sprouting tree roots are poor while the creature called the Sentinel, although partly made mechanically, is one of the most silly CGI creatures I have seen in a long time. Vin Diesel is an action star but has never really been much into depth and feelings; The Last Witch Hunter does not have many “normal” action scenes thus wasting his strengths under an array of CGI. Rose Leslie is over the top and not much better while Michael Caine provides most of the exposition and has got the elder supporting role down pat by now.

     There are three credited writers for the film which might account for the unevenness of the plotting, but I feel that this is more to do with the fat that The Last Witch Hunter was intended to be the start of a franchise so they spent more time to create the world and on exposition and background, including the various types and powers of witches, than was needed for this film. As a positive, The Last Witch Hunter was shot by experienced Australian born cinematographer Dean Semler, who won an Oscar back in 1991 for Dances with Wolves. He has worked with Vin Diesel previously, on XXX (2002); in his hands The Last Witch Hunter has some beautiful widescreen photography of the Pittsburgh cityscape and derelict areas (standing in for New York).

     The Last Witch Hunter does create an interesting world and backstory about the co-existence of humans and witches and it also touches on themes of loss, memory and betrayal, magic, immortality and being alone. However, the film does not play to its star’s strengths and swamps most of these themes amid a visual effects extravaganza.

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Transfer Quality

Video

     The Last Witch Hunter is presented in an aspect ratio of 2.40:1, in 1080p using the MPEG-4 AVC code.

     Many scenes in the film have been colour manipulated and graded. Interiors, such as the underground sets, are dark and gloomy, memory sequences are overbright and hazy. Some colours in sequences have been enhanced to stand out, such as the drinks in the memory bar, flowers and the candy bears in one scene while there is also a digital yellowish tinge under lights in some scenes. Overhead pans of the city by night, contrasting the darkness and the lights, however have solid blacks and good shadow detail. I did not notice any artefacts or marks.

     English subtitles for the Hearing Impaired are available in a largish white font.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

     The audio is English DTS-HD MA 7.1.

     This is a nice, enveloping audio track. The surrounds and rears right from the beginning of the film are utilised for weather effects, such as the wind and thunder, dripping water, insect swarms, voices in the bar, crashes and thuds during fights, off camera clicks and witch noises and the music. Some dialogue is fuzzy and purposely obscure, such as that of the Witch Queen, but I did find Vin Diesel hard to understand on more than a few occasions and Rose Leslie sometimes not much better, although the dialogue of Michael Caine came across crystal clear, as might be expected. The subwoofer added appropriate depth to voices, thunder, fights and the music.

     The orchestral score by Steve Jablonsky sounded a bit like many superhero scores but did work well.

     There are no lip synchronisation issues.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Crafting the Magic: The Last Witch Hunter (30:20)

     A reasonably decent “making of” that is sub-divided into four sections: An Immortal Hunter, An Unknown History, Witches & the Witch Queen and An Urban World of Witches. Topics covered include the importance of Vin Diesel to the project, the background and history of the witches, the casting of Michael Caine, the decision to make the Witch Queen an actor rather than CGI creation, the Queen’s prosthetic make up, memory and time travel, the memory bar, underground sets and the creation of the sentinel creature, part rig, part CGI. The featurette uses a lot of on-set behind the scenes footage which is interesting plus comments by director Breck Eisner, cast members Vin Diesel, Olafu Darri Olafsson, Michael Caine, Joseph Gilgun, Rose Leslie, Elijah Wood and Julie Engelbrecht, the producers, make up effects designer, costume designer, production designer and special effects supervisors.

Animated Short Films: The Origins of the Axe and the Cross

     Four animated shorts providing a kind of background briefing to the world of the film such as the origins of the witches, the order of the Axe and Cross, the arrival of Kaulder and the present day situation. There is not a play all option. The shorts are:

The Last Witch Hunter Sizzle Reel / Paint It, Black (1:34)

     A sort of film montage trailer set to Paint It, Black performed byCiara, not the Stones. This version of the song also plays during the end credits.

Deleted Scenes (5:43)

     Two quite lengthy deleted scenes that run one after the other. The first is a conversation between Chloe and Belial in the memory bar, the second has Kaulder tracking Belial. Their deletion means that in the film Belial and his powers remain unknown for longer.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

     The Region A US Blu-ray of The Last Witch Hunter has more audio and subtitle options, including an English DTS: X audio. The extras include the extras on this release except for the deleted scenes but add an audio commentary by director Breck Eisner which is reported as being informative. A win to Region A.

Summary

     I think that in trying to made The Last Witch Hunter the first of a series of films the filmmakers have provided more backstory and exposition that is needed for this film. That and the overwhelming use of CGI means that the human element, including the theme of immortality and loneliness (which was covered better in Highlander), is swamped. Nevertheless The Last Witch Hunter is colourful and would be of interest to fans of the fantasy genre or of Vin Diesel.

     The video is manipulated but fine and the audio nicely enveloping. The extras are decent, although the audio commentary available in the US is absent.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Ray Nyland (the bio is the thing)
Tuesday, July 04, 2017
Review Equipment
DVDSony BDP-S580, using HDMI output
DisplayLG 55inch HD LCD. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderNAD T737. This audio decoder/receiver has not been calibrated.
AmplificationNAD T737
SpeakersStudio Acoustics 5.1

Other Reviews NONE
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