Title: Season of the Witch
Directed by: Dominic Sena
Starring: Nicolas Cage, Ron Perlman (Hellboy, Conan The Barbarian), Stephen Campbell Moore, Robert Sheehan and Christopher Lee.
The art of making a thrilling and entertaining adventure movie involves mixing the element of surprise with fierce fighting and an enticing storyline. Not only is Relativity Media, the studio that is distributing ‘Season of the Witch,’ promising all these elements in the new supernatural action film, but it’s also claiming the movie throws in magnificent stunts and memorable performances that will leave audiences downright frightened. While the movie, which re-teams Nicolas Cage with his ‘Gone in Sixty Seconds’ director Dominic Sena, certainly delivers visually-stunning stunts as promised and believable relationships between some of the characters, ‘Season of the Witch’ doesn’t compare to the duo’s previous collaboration.
In Cage’s reunion with Sena, the actor portrays a heroic Crusader named Behmen. After years of fighting brutal warfare in the name of God, he deserts the Church with his closest friend, Felson (played by Ron Perlman). When the two enter the Palace at Marburg to search for food and supplies, they’re apprehended by Cardinal D’Ambroise (portrayed by Christopher Lee). In exchange for not being sent to prison for desertion, the two are ordered by the cardinal to escort a young girl (played by newcomer Claire Foy) who’s accused of being a witch and bringing on the Black Plague to a distant village to stand trial.
Felson feels compelled to protect the girl, as he feels she’s merely a scapegoat for the church. The trio is escorted by a con-man named Hagamar (portrayed by Stephen Graham), who knows the lay of the land; a young alter boy named Kay (played by Robert Sheehan); a knight named Eckhart (portrayed by Ulrich Thomsen), who lost his family to the plague; and a naive priest named Debelzaq (played by Stephen Campbell Moore).
While the trailers for ‘Season of the Witch’ promise a plot not only focused on a young witch tormenting her enemies for betraying her, but conflicts that will make viewers question their beliefs in religion and politics as well, the movie disappointingly fails on both counts. Sena was ultimately unsuccessful in keeping his audience interested in the film’s biggest plot point: whether or not the girl is really a witch. Instead, the majority of the film focuses on Behmen, Felson and the others boringly arguing amongst themselves about numerous things, including if the girl is just being used as a scapegoat, and if the teachings of the church are right.
Sena, who is known for making contemporary films that appeal to today’s audiences, wanted to incorporate a modern twist into the historical backdrop of the movie. To a certain degree, producer Alex Gartner wrongfully agreed with his approach, pointing to the fact that “The characters are questioning things that many people question today.” However, that approach doesn’t always work for period pieces.
One unsuccessful contemporary approach Sena included was Behmen leaving the Church’s army after an attack of conscience and guilt. One day, he decides that killing innocent people in the name of God isn’t right, and feels the best thing to do is to desert his mission. While Cage admits the movie’s themes have “enormous parallels in many different parts of (today’s) politics and religion,” including modern-day wars, Sena could have found a more time-relevant way to show that people have always looked for scapegoats.
While Sena’s contemporary approach to the film wasn’t successful, Cage and Perlman had a great relationship with each other that made up for it. As one of the main relationships in ‘Season of the Witch,’ the two easily made it seem as though Behmen and Felson had really fought side-by-side for years, despite the fact that the cast only received only two weeks of sword training before shooting began. Of Perlman, Sena also pointed to the fact that “He brings a great deal of dark humor to the character…With a word or a gesture, (Ron) can communicate that and make you smile.” Cage has also said that they got along well and had fun together on set.
When a movie’s title and trailers constantly reference a period of time when people were afraid of witchcraft and constantly used religion as an excuse to seek out scapegoats for their problems, audiences will come to expect a magic-filled, action-packed thriller. While Perlman, Cage and the rest of the cast of ‘Season of the Witch’ do bring lightness to such a serious subject, Sena’s contemporary tone and parallels to modern-day religion and politics tend to bring down this otherwise promising movie.
Written by: Karen Benardello