SEVENTH SON Review

With it being the time of year it is one knows exactly what they are getting into when buying a ticket to Seventh Son. It is as simple as that, really. Even after only reviewing films legitimately for a couple of years it has become something of a tradition to walk into a sci-fi/fantasy film that has for one reason or another experienced production issues and been delayed because of it and this year begins no differently as Seventh Son is clearly looking to continue an unwanted trend that the likes of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters and I, Frankenstein have made customary as of late. A perfectly average fantasy film within the constraints of the fantasy genre, Seventh Son suffers only from being rather boring in spots with not enough narrative umph to push it towards what feels like the obligatory two-hour mark. It is a movie you know and recognize before it even begins and once it does you recognize every beat because it has seemingly pulled something from every other movie of the same vein. The music is reminiscent of any Hans Zimmer score you've heard over the past few years or any of its multiple imitators after The Dark Knight and it feels like they took the backlot of any number of films set in medieval times and re-used it with no updates or customizations. The stars, Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore, do what they can without any kind of character development and Bridges, more than anyone else, seems to have taken this on more for a paycheck while delivering a performance so ridiculous he seemed to be testing the limits of just how far his credentials might get him. It is both hilarious at times and incomprehensible at others. I couldn't tell whether or not the pedigreed actor was really trying to develop an original character at first, but by the time he's fighting his third CG monster I imagined any kind of effort that might have been sparked from reading the formulaic script was all but dead and he was just having some fun. I can't really defend the film and there's no reason to. I had a fine enough time with it as I knew what I was getting into and it aligned with those expectations. No more. No less.

Jeff Bridges is John Gregory, a spook and serious mumbler with some great facial hair.
In the beginning we meet John Gregory (Bridges) a "spook" who fights off witches, boggarts, ghouls and any number of creatures that might go bump in the night. John locks an unseen villain high up on a mountain and down deep in a well in hopes that it will never escape, but ten years into training his latest apprentice (Kit Harrington) that evil escapes and the game is on. With Harrington's Mr. Bradley not up to the task of aiding Gregory in defeating the ferocious Mother Malkin (Moore), the most evil of all witches it seems, he is forced to seek out a "seventh son of a seventh son" as a last hope of sorts. It is one week before the blood moon which of course has something to do with Malkin gaining full access to her powers and so time is running out. I could be wrong-the movie doesn't really care to go into detail about why this power is necessary or what a blood moon has to do with it, but if it did I missed it among the other unintelligible and standard dialogue this thing is constantly spewing. This search for the "seventh son of a seventh son" (which is a concept from folklore regarding special powers given to, or held by, such a son) leads Gregory to a young farmer's son named Thomas Ward (Ben Barnes). Having only the week to train his latest apprentice things escalate quickly and the two clashing personalities take an arc traveled so many times before I shouldn't even have to finish this sentence. There is also the obligatory (yes, that word again) love story for Thomas to have, which this time includes the forbidden angle as he falls for Alice (Alicia Vikander), the niece of Malkin, and as a witch herself the sworn enemy of Gregory and the kind of man Thomas is supposed to become. What will Thomas do? I'll leave that up to you as it's the only slightly refreshing aspect of the film. Also, freakin' Tusk. If you decide, for some reason, to see this movie at least you get to look forward to freakin' Tusk. Classic.

For those wondering why it feels like you've been seeing trailers for this film for years it's because you have. Originally scheduled for release two years ago it has gone through a number of distributors and was eventually released over a month ago in countries outside the U.S. In being so late to the game and having already felt like I'd seen a good percentage of the film through the many trailer incarnations over the last few years it hardly felt necessary to even watch the movie before discussing it and after now actually having seen it, I feel about the same. This, of course, only reinforces the fact that you get exactly what you deserve if you decide to throw money down on this thing, but as I hate to be outright hateful and negative in reviews let's focus on a few of the highlights of the film. There is a nice bit of scope to the film. Sure, it all looks familiar and there is nothing here that The Lord of the Rings didn't make sweeping over a decade ago now, but Seventh Son shouldn't be discounted for lack of trying to incorporate the same vibe of some of the most successful fantasy films of all time. This scope in fact brings the film a more regal facade, a sense of dignity it is hard pressed to find anywhere else in the film (especially in Bridge's performance). Directed by Sergey Bodrov, a more elderly man than expected, who hails from a federal subject of Russia located in the country's far east and adapted from a series of books by Joseph Delaney the credentials from both of these sources speak well for why this seemed like a good idea to begin with. Bodrov has a number of foreign writing and directing credits to his name while Delaney's books have been adapted for the screen by the likes of Matt Greenberg (Reign of Fire), Steven Knight (Locke) and Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond) yet none of them have seemed to offer anything more than broad strokes of generalities. It is a typical rule in my mind that anytime someone creative takes on something, even an assignment such as this, they can't help but find inspiration or an original and interesting angle for which to approach the material which, considering who this came from and how predictable the final product is, may actually be the most disappointing factor.

Julianne Moore as Mother Malkin in Seventh Son.
What might be the best part of the film though is the unintentional hilarity of Bridges performance. It is hard to even fathom what an actor of his caliber saw in a film like this that made him interested in playing what is little more than an archetype, but here we are. If nothing else, when taking both this and R.I.P.D. into consideration one can only draw the seeming conclusion that the actor was, for some reason, searching to create his own kind of Jack Sparrow. A memorable, ultimately silly character that is part of a large, fantasy world that might somehow spin off into a profitable franchise. Unfortunately both these efforts have failed miserably, but despite all of this he comes through as, if not the most enjoyable thing about the movie, at least the most interesting. Moore, who every now and then seems to like to dip into this kind of campy territory, has little to do here besides get dressed up in extravagant dresses and act like a dragon before the visual effects wizards came in later and helped with her transformation. Like Bridges, she is purely playing an archetype here, but at least he took the initiative to have some fun with it while Moore plays it exactly as you'd expect adding nothing new to the persona with only her natural fair skin and striking red hair complimenting the character design if not the actual character within. And poor Ben Barnes. This guy can't catch a break. After presumably coming in strong as the titular Prince Caspian in the sequel to the first Narnia film that floundered the guy has had more flops than Brandon Routh. Dorian Gray never really had a U.S. release, the third Narnia film sunk quicker than the second, both The Words and The Big Wedding were critical and financial disasters that faced release issues and now the same story with Seventh Son. Maybe the guy is destined to become nothing more than a B-movie actor who only stars in bombs, maybe he'll get a break one of these days, who knows. Maybe he learned a thing or two from the only theme I could pull from Seventh Son which was not becoming ones presumed identity, but if he focuses on that as much as this movie does he'll probably stay right where he is.