‘Seventh Son’ Review: Jeff Bridges Battles Julianne Moore, the Nagging Sense This Is a Crummy Movie
This is the sort of week that makes a film critic questions their life choices: First, the Wachowski’s choppy, incoherent ‘Jupiter Ascending,’ and now the long-delayed (and likely soon-forgotten) ‘Seventh Son.’ Its trailer boasts that it comes “from the production company that brought you ‘300: Rise of an Empire,’” which is sort of like trying to convince someone to eat in a restaurant because the manager used to work in an Olive Garden. Isn’t January supposed to be the month where all the bad movies get dumped? The clunkers are spreading to February like a fungus.
‘Seventh Son’ is easier to follow to than ‘Jupiter Ascending’ but a lot less interesting. It’s set in a stale fantasy world populated by witches, dragons, and “spooks”—witch-hunting knights, basically, of which Jeff Bridges’ Master Gregory is the last living member of a once-thriving order. In the opening scenes, he loses his current apprentice (‘Game of Thrones’’ Kit Harington) and sets off on a quest to find a replacement who, according to a law or something, must be the seventh son of a seventh son. That limits his options to Tom Ward (Ben Barnes from ‘The Chronicles of Narnia’ series), who is reluctant to leave his family’s home, and has only a week to train before a blood moon rises and makes Julianne Moore’s witch Mother Malkin unstoppably powerful.
A week doesn’t sound like much time to turn a simple farmer into a staff-wielding witch-fighter, but you’d be surprised what can be accomplished when you’re working from a crummy screenplay. Bridges tries his best to liven things up, playing his part with an exaggerated accent and expressions, but even The Dude going full camp—plus Moore matching him step for step as a cackling villainess who occasionally transforms into a giant dragon (with red dreadlocks!)—can’t save ‘Seventh Son.’ Those two performances aside, it’s pretty generic stuff, from Barnes’ bland hero to the drab CGI and makeup effects, to Sergei Bodrov’s workmanlike action staging.
Tom Ward becomes enamored with one of Malkin’s underlings, a good-hearted witch played by Alicia Vikander, who’s torn between her loyalty to Malkin and her growing feelings for the handsome hunter. There’s a seed of an interesting idea in this world where witches and spooks are both attracted to one another and doomed to battle to the death. But thoughtful consideration of that concept is left for another movie, one that isn’t quite so focused on repetitive monster fights shot in dark forests.
Those forests appear even darker when projected in the film’s mostly pointless 3D, and, in general, this is not a visually appealing movie. The prologue, set on a dramatic mountaintop where Malkin has been imprisoned in a craggy pit, is bright and sharp. But then the film proper begins and suddenly the images become watery, almost like the print’s been dubbed from an old VHS copy. I don’t know whether this was a problem with the projection at my particular screening or the film as a whole. But whatever the case, it definitely diminished whatever pleasure I might have gotten from ‘Seventh Son’ as a spectacle. It’s not even fun to look at.
The word “fantasy” is synonymous with “imagination,” the very thing ‘Seventh Son’ and so many recent “fantasy films” lack. Instead, this stale genre just keeps recycling the same stock plots, archetypal characters, and ancient-looking settings in an endless loop of trolls and magic stones and Tolkien ripoffs. Someone desperately needs to bring the fantasy back to fantasy. But at least in the meantime Julianne Moore can now say she got to play a dragon with red dreads who says stuff like “Help yourself to the blood cakes, little one!” That counts for something, I suppose. Is February over yet?