Movie Review: Season of the Witch


Season of the Witch

Dir. Dominic Sena

Release Date: Jan 07, 11

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Nicholas Cage is a likable actor. He has a screen presence that, unlike the forced everyman demeanor of Vince Vaughn, makes you actually want to hang out with him, mostly because it’d always be an adventure. You’d come over to hang out, and end up hunting iguanas or LARPing on a massive estate or something else that charmingly eccentric men do. Which is why when he makes so many terrible movies, you want to stage an intervention so he knows that people still care and that he’s hurting them.

Season of the Witch is less Bad Lieutenant or Kick-Ass and more in the non-illustrious pantheon of Cage films akin to Ghost Rider or Next. The last few studios to touch the property (from MGM to Columbia, then on to Lionsgate and now to Rogue) have jumped ship on it; this is the kind of film where trailers and posters were released for it in early 2010, only to be pulled from the release calendar and delayed indefinitely. It’s easy to see why.

The┬átale of Bayman of Baybrook (Cage) and his quest to transport a young maybe-witch (Claire Foy) to a faraway castle for trial during the 1300s is dead on arrival. Does that name sound silly to you? Well, tuck in folks, the film repeats it around two dozen times, enough to deserve a drinking game, if only this movie had more of a sense of humor. That’s the biggest failure of Witch; there was a chance to add some kind of self-aware camp to set it apart from the common fray of sword and sandal epics (the latter term not really applying here), but instead director Dominic Sena (who directed the wonderfully overblown Gone In 60 Seconds) simply does a workmanlike job of going through every basic fantasy trope, as he and the audience pray only for the inevitable final showdown and the luxury of going home.

The rare sparks of life come mostly from Foy, who does a fine job as the vulnerable yet manipulative witch, and from Ron Perlman as Cage’s world-weary travelling companion. He gets the mostly undesirable role of the bantering friend, but has a few one-liners that draw a chuckle. In a movie that’s an island of dirge, Perlman at least tries to liven things up. The same can’t be said for Cage, who’s in the most disappointing of his many modes, that of the paycheck actor. Even if he was chewing scenery, it’d be better than his stilted delivery of clunky expository monologues.

It’s interesting that the film was even released in its current state. The reshoots that went on last year only served to add an overlong side story featuring Bayman’s endeavors in the Crusades (with terrible CGI armies) that serve as mere filler before we get to the main journey (with terrible CGI wolves) and finally the big climactic showdown (with terrible CGI demons). Season comes off like a SyFy movie that happened to get a theatrical release, and the worst part is that, in a month infamously deprived of quality film releases, it’ll likely trick enough moviegoers to at least recoup its budget, which given the released product hopefully wasn’t much.

  • Suzi

    You are right about Nicolas Cage and his screen presence. He is watchable in even the most horrific film. He is a bona fide movie star–like in the classic era when movie-goers went to see stars play roles/characters rather than worry too much about plot or content. The star’s image represented something like an ideal or idea that informed the character and determined the story. Two stars in two separate films with the same plot resulted in two entirely different movies (think Public Enemy and Little Caesar, or Cagney vs. Robinson). Very few stars work like that anymore, and today’s studio execs have no understanding of history so they haven’t a clue as to how the star system works. Actors like Cage are the last vestiges of it. The material may let Cage down but I like to see him go for it. Sometimes he overcomes it.

    I have to disagree about Vince Vaughan. Not an everyman archetype–he’s too alpha male for that. Women viewers should be able to relate to Everymen-type stars, too–like Jimmy Stewart or Tom Hanks. The phrase “everyman” wasn’t originally intended to be gender-specific. Vaughan tends to play immature males hanging onto adolescence, and these characters are often hostile toward women.