This is quite a hard film to review. As a film, while it has it charms, it doesn’t really stack up. For me at least, as a film, the plot felt too slow too often and the twists seemed too telegraphed. That said, if I’d read this as a modern dark fantasy book, or better yet played this as a modern dark fantasy table-top game, I can’t help feeling I’d have loved it.
The central character was layered and interesting. He might not be FitzWilliam Darcy in terms of layers, but if you read “immortal witch hunter played by Vin Diesel” you have expectations and they’re cleverly, playfully and skilfully subverted in ways that make sense - but perhaps don’t shine through well enough in the film while you’re actually watching it - some did for me but more came through as I was thinking back over it and writing this review which is not great for a throw-away fantasy movie. The mix of foes and the development of the enemies towards their endgame felt incoherent if viewed as a film but felt like plot development and clues and so forth if viewed as a table-top game in particular and a bit less so, but still to some extent, if viewed as a dark fantasy book.
I don’t know if this was the film of a story that was developed during an RPG campaign or session but I can’t help feel it was. Once I relaxed into that and watched it that way, I enjoyed it. I am a gamer, and while listening to other people’s stories of their greatest campaigns can be boring, a well-told story about a good campaign is still a good story and that’s fun. If you have a $90 million budget to give you special effects and Vin Diesel, Michael Caine and Elijah Wood that’s a damn sight better than most players talking about their favourite games.
I would suggest, if you’re a gamer and you go expecting a yarn about someone’s game with Hollywood special effects you won’t be disappointed. If you’re a dark fantasy novel fan you probably won’t be disappointed - it’s not an adaptation but it easily could be of far too many of them. But if you go expecting a (fairly low budget) fantasy movie, for some reason it doesn’t quite work.
Bechdel test. It certainly passes steps 1 and 2 - there are multiple named female characters who talk to each other on occasion. There is a short, roughly two lines each, back and forth between Chloe and Danique about the enchanted jewel and thrift stores. It’s really, really borderline but it is just a technical pass. I’m inclined that way because quite a lot of the women are independent and give Kaulder (well deserved) shit at various points, even if they’re terrified of him (for good reason).
Russo test. No. There’s plenty of opportunity, and it’s implied that Danique might be lesbian but it’s not clear.
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