January 9, 2011

Movie Review: Season of the Witch

Not to be confused with the non-Michael Myers edition of Halloween, this fantasy/action movie has more on common with the Ingmar Bergman classic The Seventh Seal. Well, that might be taking it a step too far, but the parallels are undeniable. The relationship between Season of the Witch and The Seventh Seal is similar to Jack Black's Gulliver's Travels is to Jonathan Swift's original novel. In other words, try not to think to hard and just go along for the ride.

Originally slated for release last March, this movie got pushed back nearly a year so it could undergo reshoots and retooling. After seeing this updated cut I am a little curious as to what it used to look like. Frankly, I cannot imagine it being much worse than this. This is the kind of movie that just goes and goes and does not really do much of anything. The story would seem poised to provide an epic adventure but instead it delivers a story that is much smaller in scope in both tone and look.

Season of the Witch opens in 1235 (I believe) where three woman are forced to confess to witchcraft and are summarily tossed off a bridge where they are then dropped into the river to drown. Yes, nice. Of course, not is all as it seems and some violence ensues. Time jumps ahead a century and we pick up during the Crusades. Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman, as Behmen and Felson, are among the armies fighting whoever crosses their path. We see them in a series of battles in deserts, in snow, in castles, in the dirt, and each joined by a name and a year (I don't recall any of the actual numbers but hey span about a dozen years or so).

This knightly duo has reached their breaking point when it comes to the slaughter of women and children. I guess a guy can only do it for so long. Anyway, the two desert and head back to England. On their journey home they come across a town that has been struck by the plague. What is interesting is their moment of indecision about entering the town, you see it from a distance with an ominous tornado of birds flying overhead. I think I would have gone around.

In short order, the deserters are enlisted to transport the black witch (Claire Foy) to a monastery where the monks will determine her fate. The journey becomes a bit of a test as the moralistic Behmen questions the girl's guilt. Along the way troubles abound, secrets are revealed, people get killed, but eventually they reach their destination for the climactic showdown where all is revealed.

I don't know. I cannot quite make up my mind on this movie. Everything feels awfully compressed when it should be pretty epic. The manner of speaking seemed out of place and every moment they had that could have added depth to the tale was ignored. Where tension could have been developed we get nothing. It feels like at any time when this could have been made better, they went in the other direction. Now, I would give you specifics, but don't want to spoil it for those who are planning on seeing it.

Nicolas Cage gives a performance that you would expect from him. Nothing special, slightly off kilter, and not terribly subtle. Ron Perlman does a good job playing the tough guy, and while he doesn't do a great job here either, I did like seeing him beat people up. If there was any performance I did like, it would be Claire Foy as the accused. She is darkly charismatic and there is certainly something behind the eyes.

I cannot say I recommend this movie. Sure, it had a few moments that were entertaining and it is not exactly train wreck. I just did not find much to really hang onto. I wanted to like it, it is just bad that as I watched I saw opportunities for improvement and considering the final product I can only assume the idea of making a good movie was not exactly a goal, no matter what is said of the Seventh Seal influence.

Not Recommended.

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