Season of the Witch Reviews
Cage and Ron Perlman star as two heroic Crusaders turned deserters who are captured and tasked with either escorting an imprisoned, supposed plague-causing witch to her trial, or dying for abandoning the war. Just because the young woman is in a cage doesn't make her any less dangerous, though, and the closer they get to their destination, the greater the peril becomes for them and their companions.
Season of the Witch actually turned out to be a better supernatural medieval flick than I expected. Sure, it's often unintentionally goofy and the action scenes are filmed and edited in a way where it can be tough to see what's even going on, but it wasn't boring and some parts were even fairly exciting. The ending seemed a little rushed, but surprisingly, I still find myself recommending this to anyone who's interested. It's not a masterpiece, but I enjoyed it for what it was.
Yes its action packed, yes its well acted, yes storyline is okay and keeps you guessing, however it just isnt a movie that wows you.
Its worth a watch for the action and Cage's and Periman's onscreen humour but not a fantastic movie.
During the 14th century Crusades, warriors Behmen (Nicolas Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) are the best killing machines the Church could hope for. They desert their positions after becoming disillusioned with the Crusades. The duo ventures into a city where a girl (Claire Foy) has been chained in a dungeon. In an airtight piece of impenetrable logic, she's being blamed for bringing the plague. Behmen and Felson, along with a former knight, a priest, and a young upstart, are tasked with bringing the girl to a monastery where she can be properly dealt with. This secluded monastery is the only place left with a copy of a rare manuscript that contains a spell that will end the pestilence. They put the girl in a cage with wheels and get rolling to that monastery, though not everyone is convinced that the girl is a witch.
For the first ten minutes, you swear you're watching a buddy comedy transported to the era of the Crusades. Cage and Perlman are in the front lines of "God's army" but they're trading competitive quips like, "You take the 300 on the right. I'll take the 300 on the left," and then they preposterously debate who is going to buy post-battle drinks while in the heat of battle. They're literally slaying enemy soldiers and would rather be arguing over who buys. It's like they have no attachment to anything happening. This opening Crusade sequence takes us through 12 freaking years of battle locations, but it's only at the final battle that Cage and Perlman come to the realization that women and children might also be getting slaughtered as they siege city after city. It's at this point that they get on their moral high horses and stick it to the Catholic leaders: "I serve God, not you. This is not God's work." Why did it take them 12 years of fighting to figure out that innocent people may die when you lay waste to cities? Naturally this epiphany only happens after they kill off a European looking innocent. The opening sequence is meant to introduce us to these characters, but it jars the viewer in mere minutes. These guys don't feel a part of their place or time, and it only gets worse from there. Their nonchalant anachronistic behavior makes the movie seem like a Hope and Crosby vehicle.
This is one thunderously boring movie, putting me to sleep three separate times. I had to rewind what I had missed, and each time I came to the conclusion that I really had missed nothing at all. The problem with the plot is that it makes a mystery pretty obvious. The group is carting around a teen girl in a cage. You'd think this would be something of a conversation starter, perhaps even an opening for a critical analysis of the Inquisition and religious fanaticism at this perilous time. Nope. The whole of the Bubonic Plague is being blamed on a teen girl and nobody seems to bat an eye at this. Sure there's a few passing references to how killing is wrong (again, remember this took at least 12 years of slaughter to sink in), but the movie's central storyline seems to shift to a "Is she really a witch?" query. Judging from what kind of film this is, you'd probably be safe betting on "yes" and, well, you'd be partly right. The reason this is no spoiler is because it's revealed at like halfway through the movie. The girl's chief defenders suddenly jump on the "burn her" bandwagon. Strange things are following the troupe, so it's pretty obvious who is at play. However, the girl is no witch but is inhabited by a demon, which seems like splitting hairs. When the super cheesy CGI demon/gargoyle shows its face, the creature actually speaks English but in a really speedy and comical voice that makes it hard to be taken seriously. An earlier cut of the movie did not involve this dumb CGI demon but the girl herself. At least that route would have saved the producers some money and unintentional laughter.
The movie should be far more entertaining, even in a dubious fashion, than it finally is. Season of the Witch flirts with some messages (religion can exploit, women were unfairly persecuted) and silly genre elements amidst a Medieval setting (witches, demons, plague). That sounds like the makings for a campy treat but that treat never materializes. The boring plot lumbers, with the company encountering some setback that picks off their numbers one by one. It's hard not to feel the drowsy effects of the dull repetition. They encounter killer wolf creatures. Then they encounter a rickety rope bridge, and you better believe that there are rotting boards and fraying ropes. Who keeps building these rope bridges that appear in so many movies, and why do they keep getting hired after continually doing substandard work? Do the regulators get fat payoffs from the rope bridge lobby?
The road to the monastery is a long trek and the movie's momentum seems to lag with every step. There should be more internal conflict rather than this superficial "killing is wrong" moral that every warrior seems tormented with. The premise should be a ripe opening for a discussion on the perversion of religion for political and personal gain, for the abuses of power, for the archaic view of women as subhuman beings who will seduce men to destruction. There's even a priest along the way to provide a counterpoint. But alas, Season of the Witch goes hog wild for the cheesy supernatural spooks and even at that it fails miserably.
As of late, the saving grace in a Nicolas Cage paycheck movie is a gonzo performance and some wacky hairdo. We don't even get that much with Season of the Witch. Cage is oddly subdued throughout the whole movie despite all the swords and witchery. Even his hair is subdued. Without Cage's typical nutty antics, the movie loses any chance of entertainment it might have ever hoped to have. The shame is that Cage and Perlman both have an easygoing chemistry. You like the two of them together; you just wish they had a better reason to trade insults and one-liners.
Far from bewitching, this movie is ponderously dull. It misses camp by a mile and just lands on mediocrity. There's nothing about this movie that will stand the test of time, good or bad. This is the definition of a paycheck movie. It flirts with going darker before it settles on a messy monster-heavy ending. The special effects are cheesy, the scares are cheap, the plot is repetitious, the characters feel wrongly transplanted from a modern movie, and Cage sleepwalks through his role. I can't say I blame him. Season of the Witch put me to sleep and I only had to put up with it for 90 minutes.
Nate's Grade: D+
Director: Dominic Sena
Summary: In 14th-century Europe, a courageous knight (Nicolas Cage) leads a group of weary warriors across impossibly treacherous terrain in order to transport a suspected witch (Claire Foy) believed to be responsible for spreading the devastating Black Plague.
My Thoughts: "The movie isn't great, but it's not all bad either. The ending was..well.. I didn't care for it. *SPOILER* I personally thought that the killing of the demon looked like something you would see in a video game. Just really fake looking. *END OF SPOILER* I thought bits of the film was quite creepy. It also had some humor in the movie which helped it. There are plenty of fight/battle scenes and some gore. I liked Nicolas Cage and Ron Perlman together in this and I wouldn't mind seeing them team up to do another film. The movie is definitely not as bad as other's have been claiming. It's worth a rental. Films are meant to entertain you and this film succeeded that for me."
Cage as a 14th Century "knight of God" sounds like it could go either way, like Cage as an ancient wizard (The Sorcerer's Apprentice) or Cage as Harvey Keitel redux (The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call - New Orleans). With a fresh-flowing mane and Hellboy as his sidekick, Cage in Season of the Witch requires us to buy into a chain-mail clanger about disillusioned crusaders escorting a chick to be a kangaroo-courted for her alleged dark artistry.
Just as Ron Perlman's dry asides plummet to earth like a heathen's lopped head, so too does Cage's latest shot at playing dress-ups for our entertainment.
Cage's Gone in 60 Seconds director Dominic Sena must have donated "fun" and "sense of humour" elsewhere, because his soulless medieval road movie doesn't attempt to appease our disinterest by cracking a smirk at the sullen service of Behman (Cage) and Felson (Perlman).
Digs at religious intolerance escape detection as a routine trek to a judgmental monastery only offers Cage and Perlman the chance to ride horses, wave swords and combat a creaky bridge. Such non-events trudge on, until Sena achieves new heights of time-wasting by sincerely serving up a finale of hysterical desperation.
Tacky demons, charred monks and nonsensical conflict between mere mortals and needlessly cautious spirits collapse into a great pile of embarrassment for all concerned. In his favour, Cage doesn't go full-tilt incoherent but, like Apprentice, playing it straight-ish only enhances how the medicore material actually requires him to go postal.
In light of this average Season, Ghost Rider 2 is almost welcome.
Perhaps he's simply neutered his career past the point of no return. Next, The Wicker Man, Knowing, Bangkok Dangerous, and now this...awful role after awful role with barely anything else in sight. Does a one-time Oscar winner mean anything to anyone anymore, other than oddfellows like Herzog who are willing to fit him into a warped auteurial brainchild? Or is he simply doomed to boring, brainless, ugly, sub-blockbuster January offal like this for the rest of his life? Frankly, I'm past the point of caring about him, but if anyone sees any potential left, let me know.
Cage and Perlman played disillusioned Teutonic Knights who abandon the Crusades and find themselves tasked with taking a suposed witch to a monastary to be dealt with. The film is a mixture of Hammer horror films, buddy flicks, epic action period films, and a touch (albeit a bad one) of 'history'.
A major problem here is that Dominic Sena the director and Cage paly it serious while it seems erlamn is going for something more light at times. It doesn't blend well, and the film is all over the place tonally in general. The prologue is actually pretty good, and had me thinking this might actually be decent. Then it spiraled into an overlong series of battle after battle and some banter between Cage and Perlman before the plot kicked in. Once it did get going, it seemed to be over far too quickly. I think they should have trimmed the battle stuff and simplified it. Then, once things got going, spend a bit more time letting things develop.
I will say that, besides the prologue, I liked the sets, the costumes, and think that the final battle is okay (it has it's moments, and in the hands of Sam Raimi, would have been awesome). The movie is watchable, though you might really need to be desperate to want to watch it. It had some real potential, but Sena just does't really do muich with it. It's too bad too, becuase the film had an interesting premise and toyed with some potentially awesome concepts. If you wanna see this type of thing, or something similar to it, but, you know, done right, then go watch Black Death. That's a far better movie.
SOTW is superior to the recent release Red Riding Hood as far as suspense and scares go. That movie was completely awful, a teenage vampire soap opera which tries to use Amanda Seyfreid to carry it.
Keep your expectations low, and you might enjoy this. Its fairly predictable and clichéd, and the dialogue is crap, but how could a perilous journey to stop the black death by knights who apparently have scruples be all bad?
Everything beforehand is just dribble combined with action/suspense that does very little to satisfy the plot. Thank god for Perlman's performance as the generic "badass", otherwise I don't think I would've been able to sit through this snorefest.