Thursday, March 31, 2011

Season of the Witch

Directed by: Dominic Sena
Produced by: Alex Gartner; Charles Roven
Screenplay by: Bragi F. Schut
Starring: Nicolas Cage; Ron Perlman; Claire Foy;
Music by: Atli Örvarsson
Cinematography: Amir Mokri
Release date(s): January 7, 2011
Running time: 98 minutes
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: US$40 million
Gross revenue: $81,127,228

Apparently, these days Hollywood actor Nicolas Cage would do any film offered to him. Once he was fantastic actor and a handsome man. Remember Raising Arizona? He won an Oscar for Leaving Las Vegas, and gave a stellar performance in Adaptation..

And now, he has been relegated to doing these CGI-enchanted "Sword and Sorcery" B-grade mishmashes. Last year, it was The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. This year so far, he has two such releases — Season of the Witch, where he is a mediaeval knight in a face-off with the Devil himself, and Drive Angry, where he is an escapee from hell to save his granddaughter from a Satanic cult.

Rumour as it that Season of the Witch was inspired by Ingmar Bergman’s classic The Seventh Seal, where a mediaeval knight meets Death in the plague-stricken countryside and invites him to a game of chess, as they grapple with the existential issues of faith and mortality. But Cage is no Max von Sydow. At best you can compare the film to the remake of another Bergman film, The Virgin Spring, into a Hollywood horror film, The Last House on the Left.

But you cannot really blame Season of the Witch. It doesn’t have any other ambitions than to be sword-and-sandal action fare. As the film opens, for a minute you think the film may offer you some rationale on the witchcraft issues. But no, the film takes witchcraft and witches very seriously and present them as very real. Indeed.

The story? The story is actually less heavy than the swords that the protagonist of the piece Behman (Cage) wields. He and his sidekick Felson (Ron Pearlman, yes the same guy who makes the Hellboy movies so wonderful, here invited to act in a few stunt scenes) are deserters from the Crusade since they had enough of the bloodshed and killing of the innocent. As they return home, they stop in a city ravaged by the plague. The cardinal (an unrecognisable Christopher “Dracula” Lee), who is dying, tell the strongmen that it’s all the handiwork of a witch who has been imprisoned. The only way to get rid of this plague is to take the witch to a remote monastery where she can be exorcised with the help of the last of copy of the book, ‘Keys of Soloman,’ which contains spells and incantations to defeat all evil. (In short, without the book, we are doomed.).

Our heroes obviously agree to escort the witch, otherwise we will have no film. They are accompanied by a nobleman, a priest, a young apprentice, and a swindler, not to mention the witch herself, a motley group, so to speak. The stage is set for action and adventure, which you get in good measures, and average computer graphics — there are shadows, a broken bridge, and wolves, and a few deaths.

Finally, we arrive at the monastery. Till here, the film was still making some sense, with the witch playing tricks with the minds of her captors, and the cynic warrior Behman learning to navigate his emotions. Then Hollywood takes over, and everything goes to hell. I mean, when you have the Devil himself at your disposal, why do you need his sidekicks, right? And, mind you, Nick Cage can fight anything, including the Devil. Remember Ghost Rider?

Only that Ghost Rider looks like a masterpiece compared to this unnecessary witch-hunt.

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