Season of the witch

Signs you are about to see a bad movie:

1) The movies’ released has been delayed time and time again.  CHECK.

2) The movie is released in early January. CHECK

3) The movie is not screened for critics. CHECK.

We have a trifecta so far.  This check list applies to the “new” Nicolas Cage movie, “Season of the Witch”.  The movie was originally suppose to come out in early 2010, but kept getting bumped until it finally found itself a spot here in January.  The movie was not screened early for critics which usually mean the studio feels they have a real dog on their hands and want to prevent bad word of mouth before the movie is released on the public.  After a screening of the movie on a Friday night at the Cinemark movie theater in Boynton Beach it was understandable why.

The movie takes place during the Crusades in 1344.  A time where if a woman sneezed too hard people will exclaim that she is a witch.  Behmen (Cage) and Felson (Ron Perlman) are warriors fighting in the name of God and his son Jesus Christ; but, after years of killing in thy name, they decide they have had just about enough and desert the army.  They come across a small town that is infected by a plague.  The people of the town believe a witch they have captured (Claire Foy) is responsible.  Cage and Felson are asked to help transport her to a group of Monks who will put her on trial to determine if she is a witch or not and cleanse her if she is one.

The opening of the movie opens with a grand musical score accompanied by a choir, and from that moment on everything went wrong because the piece seemed out of place.  The movie is filled with bad choices and almost all of that can be laid on the movie’s director, Dominic Sena.  He employs many slow motion shots, but they are not needed.  Filmmaking is not easy, and often a movie’s success can be directly contributed to the amount of pre-production that went into it.  So during this stage of a movie when a director is making a storyboard of an action sequence and decides these shots will be in slow motion, the director or someone else should ask, why?  What are you driving to emphasize with that shot?  What do you wish to convey to an audience?  If the director can’t answer that question right away or the best he can come up with is, because it will look cool that is NOT a solid argument for the shot and the movie will suffer later on.

Here is another poor choice: the movie takes place in the 14th Century and Nicholas Cage and Ron Perlman sound like men who are from the 21st Century.  Now, in real life they are, but in the movie their characters are not.  So they should not be speaking with clean American accents with attitudes from this century as well.  Again, they feel out of place.  Stephen Graham plays Hagamar the Schemer.  A funny title, right?  Sounds like a character who can offer some comic relief and when we first meet him in the stockade he is set up to be just that.  Alas, in a movie that certainly could have used some comic relief this character provided none.  Another sign a movie is not going to be good are people walking out on the movie as some did at the screening in Boynton.

People may want to point the finger at the writer of the script for how poor it is, Bragi F. Schut.  The truth is the screenplay is not terrible.  In fact, there was a reported bidding war for this spec script many years ago.  It’s understandable because it is easy to see how the screenplay could be a good read, it just did not translate well to the screen.

The action scenes did not work too well either.  Besides the opening scenes during The Crusade battles there is a sequence on a bridge and a scene with some wolves that are suppose to be real tense and keep the audience on the edge of their seats.  Instead we come to the last sign you are seeing a bad movie, people falling asleep during the movie as Fritz St. Cyr did during the movie (he snores).  “Nic Cage definitely had better movies than this,” he said after he woke up during the end credits.  That is certainly true.