The new Vin Diesel action movie The Last Witch Hunter is budgeted at around $60-90 million, and today it’s looking at an opening weekend of possibly less than $10 million. You don’t need to be a witch to see that it’s brightly burning at the stake, doomed to die a fiery death. But how can that happen? To him? Where’s the magic? Where’s the global family’s support?
Let’s open a warm bottle of Corona and talk about this for a minute, because it’s strange that people won’t give The Last Witch Hunter the benefit of doubt. Yes, I know. Despite itself.
Just to get this straight: I’m not trying to drum up irrational interest for the movie (which I haven’t even seen and which I don’t assume to be good), or the big guy himself. He’s of course a multi-millionaire already, a happily married father of three, and one of the few lucky stars with more than one ongoing franchise (Jennifer Lawrence and Chris Pratt nod in approval). The last thing he needs is pity, and The Last Witch Hunter is an irrelevant project. Nevertheless, this case of public ignorance is an interesting one. So let’s moisturize his lovable scalp a little and read from that shiny reflection like a seer why this bomb is a real head scratcher.)
An immortal monster hunter teaming up with an attractive woman to slay his monstrous arch enemy? A timeless concept for any geek, male or female, and it worked great for Blade. Yes, this could have been another generation’s bald white Blade. I mean it’s obviously not that, but even that Underworld prequel without Kate Beckinsale in a leading role made double of what The Last Witch Hunter made*. People don’t expect it to be half as good as an Underworld prequel, do they?
* opening weekend
Advertising and trailer
First of all, there was a lot of advertising. Everyone knows this exists. Yes, the trailer didn’t exactly look great, but it doesn’t look horrible either. Bland, but obviously not as bad as Blade: Trinity. No witch commented on witch sex toys, no boss witch dangled babies over chasms, there are no witch Pomeranians. Remember Renny Harlin’s The Covenant? There’s simply no way it’s that bad. Just look at his mesmerizing viking costume and graveyard throne something:
People loved Haensel & Gretel: Witch Hunters
Diesel’s success of late
The last stuff we’ve heard about Diesel is the fact that lately, he has been extremely successful. Just a couple of months ago, Furious 7 and Guardians of the Galaxy happened and I don’t need to bring up the numbers for those. They were fricking huge. Thus the public in general should be a little more interested in what’s next for him.
However, not even a fifteenth of his Furious 7 opening audience showed up for this. Paul Blart: Mall Cop Part 2 had a better opening. Why?
You can find a lot of reasons why Furious 7 was that insanely successful, but it’s hard to believe that 90% only came because of Walker (they didn’t care one bit about his solo projects), because they’re explicitly fans of that specific franchise, or because of the infectious interest the movie garnered from it’s ridiculously successful predecessors. You should also expect that Diesel should have won over quite a few new fans by now who are open to see him in other action movies as well. If him fighting Jason Statham with a wrench is awesome, him fighting a witch monster should be at least… a fifth as awesome?
Social Media awareness
Diesel has nearly a hundred million followers on Facebook. Just saying. That makes him one of the most followed celebrities on the planet. If only 10 percent of that would go buy tickets…
It is way more commercial than Riddick
Riddick did double of what The Last Witch Hunter made*, and as a dark and gritty R-rated alpha male sci-fi tale about a cold-blooded killer a family-friendly spectacle should have reached more fans instead of less. Well, in theory.
There’s nothing taking away from it
Sure, The Martian and Goosebumps are still riding high, but currently there’s no true box office juggernaut. Is everyone holding back to watch a horror movie instead, because it’s the end of October? Doubtful, as the newest Paranormal Activity bombed even worse. Is everyone waiting for Spectre instead? No, that’s two weeks away.
It is an original property
I know that for many that’s actually a point speaking against it, but others dislike the constant flow of remakes, reboots, sequels, and adaptations, and claim to welcome new stuff with open arms. Well, this is new.
It is not in 3D
Which means it isn’t as expensive as, say, Paranormal Activity: The Ghost Dimension.
As I said, the trailer looked rather bland and generic.
The writers of this wrote Priest and Dracula Untold.
It is an original property.
There are people who simply won’t see a Vin Diesel movie because his professional name is Vin Diesel.
Any non-franchise solo movie Diesel did bombed:
2002: Knockaround Guys
2003: A Man Apart
2005: The Pacifier (oddly, this one was a huge hit)
2006: Find Me Guilty
2007: Babylon AD
But you gotta see that he only became a monstrous super star at the end of the 2000s, and the Diesel who starred in A Man Apart was a nobody. Today’s Diesel is a super star, it’s just that the opening weekend of The Last Witch Hunter doesn’t show it. I’m not saying that it should be a huge hit, but it’s a total head scratcher that an actor who’s so popular right now can’t even raise a generic looking action movie an inch above similar looking work.
If you look at Diesel’s filmography, there’s a simple, but interesting mix of stories. All of those movies could have been something. It’s not like all of it was dead on arrival. Most of them failed to be better due to weak scripts or due to weak directing. If you haven’t seen it, he’s actually really solid as a fat, charming mobster on trial in that one movie with Sidney Lumet and Peter Dinklage. His short Multi-Facial is worth a watch as well. And even though the goofy The Pacifier was a huge hit with families, he has obviously decided to not go down that road any further. One can respect that.
It’s just strange to see that even today millions of Facebook followers really don’t mean a thing, or the fact that his last movie is one of the most successful movies ever. It would make sense if he had made something completely different, off-putting his audience, like a musical, but fantasy action is not that far away from his usual stuff.
Would The Last Witch Hunter even have fared much worse if, say, someone without a billion dollar franchise or followers in the triple digits was the lead? Doubtful.
As for Diesel himself: he’s a charismatic guy, and he’ll easily bounce back with his new chapters for Dominic Torretto, Xander Cage, Groot, and Richard B. Riddick. But he’ll continue to be an underdog outside of that.
To close this with a really good movie recommendation: Watch Carl Theodor Dreyer’s The Passion of Joan of Arc. It’s a silent movie about Joan of Arc getting ready to be burned at the stake. It’s an amazing movie, and it should be public domain by now.