2011 kicks off with this year's first major motion picture released in the dead zone of January month, and the (stinking) honor goes to none others than SEASON OF THE WITCH. Not surprisingly, just about everything involving this train wreck of epic proportion is rotten egg (in this case, rotten spell) -- extensive reshoots, numerous date changes, poor test screening preview and equally uninspired trailer. What's more, this is the second time in the row actor Nicolas Cage is nothing but bad news following from his last year's fantasy fiasco, THE SORCERER'S APPRENTICE.
The opening scene though, holds a decent promise where a priest finds himself haunted by a witch he had earlier hanged at the bridge. Had thing continues to be as equally inspiring as that scene itself, the movie would have been an entertaining medieval romp. Too bad it doesn't take long before the rest of the movie nosedives faster than we think. What follows next is a series of cheap-looking and lazily-constructed montage of two 14th-century dedicated knights Behmen (Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) fighting numerous wars in the Crusades. After discovering their last battle involving the innocent death of women and children, they grow fed up and decide to return home. However the place they called home has become a land infested by a deadly plague. When they are brought in to meet the disease-stricken Cardinal D'Ambroise (Christopher Lee), they are assigned on a mission to escort an imprisoned girl (Claire Foy) who is thought to be a witch, to a remote faraway abbey in hope to strip away all her witchcraft power. Accompanying them on their journey is a small crew that includes a priest Debelzaq (Stephen Campbell Moore), a knight (Ulrich Thomsen), a wisecracking swindler-turned-guide Hagamar (Stephen Graham) and an altar boy Kay (Robert Sheehan) who desperately wanted to become a knight. Along the way, they meet various form of troubles.
Bragi Schut Jr.'s script is essentially formulaic and worst still, awfully pedestrian. Despite fascinating subject matter involving medieval action adventure and witchcraft, there are surprisingly little imagination that could have expanded in this kind of genre. Instead the movie spends too much time with Cage and Perlman exchanging jokes, wisecracking and telling stories about how great things used to be. So any sense of adventure-filled story is almost second-to-none.
Taking thing granted as well are bad casting. Both Cage and Perlman play their roles a little too modern and doesn't fit well as those kind of knights who went through a lot of difficulties. The rest of the supporting actors are equally forgettable. Only Claire Foy sheds some light to her lively character.
Continued his downfall is director Dominic Sena who previously held an underwhelming effort, 2009's WHITEOUT (which ironically also a victim of bad publicity) and of course, the equally forgettable 2000's GONE IN 60 SECONDS in which he and Cage teamed before. Likewise, he has little sense of pacing and his direction is strictly amateurish. All the special effects are as cheap-looking as they goes, and the action set-pieces are pretty much uninspired or downright goofy (particularly the lame ending where Cage fighting a CG creature). Only the scene involving Cage and his crew attempts to push a cart over a creaky suspended bridge has a worthy moment of engaging suspense.
This is the movie that should have dumped as direct-to-DVD release instead.