Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman, Stephen Graham, Claire Foy, Chrstopher Lee
Director: Dominic Sena
Writer: Bragi F. Schut
Cinematography: Amir M. Mokri
Original Score: Atli Orvarsson
Running Time: 113 mins.
There are times when a film is mooted, and word begins to leak out of details along with the first few images, often this can (against your better judgement) build anticipation for something you suspect could be a touch hokey but a tonne of fun. So when word reached me some years ago that Nic Cage was to star with Ron Perlman (Ghost Rider and Hellboy together at last!)in a medieval romp that was entitled The Season of the Witch my interest was piqued especially as news and word-of-mouth on the project grew. Then came mid 2009, still no sign of it, late 2009, still not a peep, all had gone quiet on the film, and then just as it was due a release last January it was pulled again which means here we have a film that was once an interesting prospect coming at us having sat on the shelf for quite some time and riding on the coat-tails of at least 2 other hokey medieval romps…Black Death and Solomon Kane.
There is a reason for the delays faced by Season of the Witch and that quite simply is because the film is, to put it kindly, lacklustre in every way, shape and form. We all know by now that Cage is no mark of quality per ce but what he usually brings is a little of that crazy charisma and a bad hair do, I’ll let you take a stab at which is present and correct, and which is not this time around. The guy looks bored, not a great mood to prove infectious for the audience, one would have thought between them Cage and co-star Perlman could muster some keenly tongue in cheek banter as they are both big screen presences when they want to be and both can crack the wise when needed, which means what has happened here is all the more inexplicable. This is the kind of material rife for banter yet where Black Death excelled at this, as did Centurion, Season of the Witch fails miserably with great character actors such as Stephen Graham wasted.
There is some suggestion that the script is to blame, leaden and flat this is stilted dialogue of the worst kind, if your tone for a film concerning plague, witchcraft and pillaging isn’t heavily horror influenced (this isn’t!) it should at least strive to be fun, there are times we approach this but any of the other half-arsed elements simply hamper it. Shoddy effects, particularly in a dire CGI creation in the final battle as well as poor set design, costumes and make-up. These are not things I would usually draw attention too unless very good but here they simply take the tone of doing everything by halves rather than attempting to make it good, in fact it simply looks as though no-one that turned up could really be bothered!
Breaking down scenes sees that each could have been cut from a much better film, just rehashed at the hand of Dominic Sena (Gone in 60 Seconds), a man who is clearly working well out of his comfort zone. Witness for example the dire opening battle scenes, cut from Lord of the Rings and Kingdom of Heaven just this time bloodless and bereft of any flair, even Cage looks bored as he swings a sword around lopping heads off (offscreen of course), if he can’t imbue this dross with some passion, no-one can!
The best thing to be said about Season of the Witch is that the potential was there, and with a little more invested it could have been at least enjoyable and hokey, in its current state the only thing that stands out is how half=arsed it all is. In fact if as much effort had gone in to the film as has advertising campaign it would be a winner!