I hadn't heard anything at all about this movie, so certain things that I'm sure anyone who's seen the trailer would know caught me by surprise, which is a good thing in my opinion and probably made it easier for me to enjoy the movie. And overall I did enjoy it; it's probably one of the better movies of it's kind that I've seen in a while.
Let's start with one of the best parts: the protagonist, Kaulder, is NOT a Reluctant HeroTM. I was actually pretty confidently expecting them to have him spend the entire movie whining about how he "didn't ask for this" and so on, but no; Kaulder seems to be at peace with what he does. In fact he even seems to enjoy it sometimes - not when he's actually killing thankfully, but generally he seems to be reasonably happy with his life. It was a refreshing change.
Partly for that reason, I found Kaulder to be a likeable character overall. I also appreciated that he wasn't just some musclebound brute, he actually spent more time investigating than bashing heads; you could say that they didn't forget the "hunt" part of Witch Hunter. Oh, and Vin Diesel looked really cool with hair and a viking beard. Shame he didn't keep that look for the whole movie.
Unfortunately I didn't like Chloe (played by Rose Leslie) as much. I don't really know why, but I just never warmed to her. Maybe it's because the "romance" between her and Kaulder was so underdeveloped, or perhaps it's because her presence in the plot felt a little forced at times, I'm not sure.
I enjoyed Micheal Caine and Elijah Wood as the two Dolan's, and wish they could have gotten more screen time. Especially Elijah, I liked his character's part in the story and would have liked for it to be a bit more fleshed out.
I don't think anyone else got enough screen time for me to really comment on them, not even the villains. Which actually ties into one of my biggest complaints about this film: it's too focused on Kaulder. He is basically the center of the entire universe, everything begins and ends with him; eveything ties to him personally, and all that we see from anyone else is how they interact with him. Even the antagonists seem to spend most of their time working to stop him rather than actually working to further their own goals. Hell, Kaulder himself ends up searching for the villains by trying to investigate his own past!
To me, it made the movie feel small and a little shallow. Nothing much was fleshed out or given depth. There's only a small handful of characters and we don't get to know much about most of them; even the motivations of the main protagonists are only really hinted at; witches don't like humans because we build buildings or something. We hear about an Order of the Axe and Cross (I think) that Kaulder works for, but we never find out anything at all about them or how they support Kaulder. There's great little moments when we catch glimpses into a hidden world inhabited by magic-using witches, but they are too brief and far between. We get snippets of the mechanics of magic, but not quite enough to understand how it works, or even what exactly witches are. I just wish the movie had immersed itself more in the idea of this fantasy world.
The plot was not very deep and had it's share of holes, but I will say that it held up better than I expected overall, and it had some decents twists, some of which I kinda saw coming and some of which I didn't. The action scenes weren't amazing, but they were stylish and provided entertaining visual spectacles, as did other scenes in the movie, thanks in part to good use of quality visual effects.
Overall I'm giving it a 7/10. I found it entertaining and stylish, if not very deep or impressive.
I tried to avoid mentioning in the main review that the bulk of the film is set in the modern day world, because I actually didn't know that going in and was surprised when it happened. I'm not sure if I prefer it this way; I really liked Vin Diesel as a viking-esque warrior, but to be honest I'm not entirely sure he could have pulled it off for a whole movie - at least I've never seen him in that kind of role before so I just don't know. And I do like the whole "magic hidden in the shadowy corners of our world" thing when it's done well, so I didn't have a problem with it here.
I liked the fact that Kaulder was so well adapted to the modern world; it was a bit of a reversal of expectations. I was probably a very good move too, as with characters like Captain America running around on screen these days the "man out of his time" cliche is becoming a bit familiar.
I found it a bit funny that everyone kept trying to tell Kaulder that he's lonely, but I never actually saw it in his actions. Yeah, OK, he fixes clocks in his free time, I get that you think that makes him look lonely, but to me it doesn't really, it just tells me that you want me to think that he's lonely since you don't understand why people would enjoy something like watch repair. I mean, I'm fairly certain that there's married men with children who like to do a bit of watch repair, or similar handcrafts, when they can find a bit of free time.
Do the Axe and Cross do anything at all? Perhaps they just gather information on witches then tell Kaulder where to go and who to kill? I assumed that they bankrolled him, but seeing as he's been around for so long I don't think it would be too hard for him to sort out his own finances.
Why is he the last witch hunter anyway? Is it because of the peace treaty? He was part of a group of witch hunters before, so people have hunted witches, and now that there's all sorts of advanced weapons and technology - you know, equalizers - surely it should be easier than it was before? I mean, I know not many people believe in witches, but you'd think an organization like the Axe and Cross would make it a point to keep a few dozen trained warriors armed and ready at all times, right?
He put the heart in his safe? In his apartment? Is that really the most secure place he could think of? Where was it even hidden before it was stolen? The Axe and Cross never noticed it was missing - or did they and they just never bothered to tell Kaulder about it? Maybe the told Elijah's character and he just kept the information to himself?
Why did they need to get the location of the heart from Micheal Caine when Elijah Wood would have known the location himself as the next Dolan? Was it something to do with what he was saying about Micheal Caine taking pity on Kaulder; did that mean that he had stolen the heart or was planning to destroy it so Elijah had to act quickly or something?
How come nothing could kill Kaulder but the Witch Queen was pretty easy to kill? I mean, he didn't even stab her in the heart, he actually missed, yet she basically disintegrated. Did she have a weakness to fire that he didn't or something? I mean, at the end he killed her after he had lost his immortality then been stabbed and shot multiple times; she clearly wasn't all that tough.
When he "unleashed the storm" at the end, what was his plan? Did he know that the sword would act as a lightning rod, but only after he threw it and not before? Or was the storm just a distraction, or possibly a light source? Maybe he just wanted to kill the Witch Queen in a dramatic way; he had her at his mercy before but stood around delivering one-liners instead of finishing her off after all.
Was it really so important to stop him from getting his memory back, even though it seems they needed him to be there for the return of the Witch Queen? How did the memory even reveal to him that the heart was still intact when he hadn't been concious to see it (and even if he had picked up some sounds or something he wouldn't have seen the dude hide the heart)? That's not exactly a memory anymore.
What was that powder that he used, and what exactly did it do? Neutralize magic? How does that work? Like, can you just scatter some around your bedroom and be immune to bad juju? Can you just wear some in a necklace? Can you put it in a bullet or shot shell and shoot down magical spells? Is it magical itself? In which case where did he get it? What about that symbol that appeared in glass when he breathed on it? Can anyone do that or is it something you need to know how to do?
So Chloe didn't actually do ANYTHING at all at the end? She stopped the chant for a while, but then it continued to completion later anyway, and then she just got used as a hostage; she really didn't do anything in the finale. Well, other than tell that obvious lie about how there's "other, worse things" out there just waiting for Kaulder to die. I mean, that's got to be a lie, otherwise the entire universe really does revolve around him. Besides, I don't think his healing factor is so scary that creatures more powerful than the Witch Queen would spend 800 years in hiding because of it.
I just keep thinking "this is so much better than I Frankenstein"!