Review: “Seventh Son” Is Way More Entertaining Than It Should Be
Title: Seventh Son
Director: Sergery Bodrov
Screenwriters: Charles Leavitt (screenplay), Steve Knight (screenplay), Matt Greenberg (screenplay), and Joseph Delaney (novel “The Spook’s Apprentice”)
Principal Cast: Ben Barnes, Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Jeff Bridges, Djimon Hounsou, and Olivia Williams
You might have heard of Seventh Son as far back as 2012 because that’s when the production of this film began. The movie has since gone through three different release dates, with the first being just over two years ago by the day. That doesn’t usually mean anything good for a production and it even precedes the Legendary Pictures and Warner Brothers split. That many delays and it’s a miracle that this is getting released at all. It has a top tier cast, though, and I’m a sucker for all things fantasy like this, so I’ve been keeping an eye on Seventh Son if nothing else. All the delays and the rather tedious trailers didn’t exactly give me high expectations.
Seventh Son might be entirely generic in its story and aesthetic and perhaps it was because I had zero expectations that I was entertained, even if I’m going to probably forget it existed in a week or so.
Our story begins with Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) who is a Knight known as “the Spook”. He’s the one that’s called in to deal with the various supernatural and dark forces that are lurking in his kingdom. When a witch named Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) escapes and swears that she’ll rain down an age of darkness, Gregory must seek out a new apprentice. He finds Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), the seventh son of the seventh son, and the two of them must use their extremely short timeline to get Tom trained enough to kill Mother Malkin before the next blood moon when her power would be at its strongest.
I’m not even going to try and argue on behalf of this story. If there is anyone who has seen one fantasy movie or read one fantasy book in the last decade, then you know exactly where this story is going. To say that Seventh Son is generic might be too generous because I knew exactly how this was going to end twenty minutes into the movie. I can try to defend these choices, and I can’t say how much it strays from the original book by Joseph Delaney, but screenwriters Steven Knight and Matt Greenberg do not exactly craft a compelling narrative. The most interesting thing in the story is the idea that the witches are sick of being oppressed and killed by men, but the movie doesn’t go anywhere with it. It’s really just lip service at the most and is only brought up by Mother Malkin to justify her actions. There is a beautiful young witch named Alice (Alicia Vikander) who is following Gregory and Tom around, and you already know where that relationship dynamic is going.
The special effects dominate entire sections of the movie, but they aren’t exactly top tier. The designs for the dragons that Malkin and Alice’s mother and another witch Mam (Olivia Williams) turn into for plot reasons. Malkin also has several lieutenant working for her but they are just the mini bosses that Gregory and Tom have to beat before they can fight the final boss and win the game movie.This is a fairly common setup for stories, but it always makes me think of playing Mega Man or a Mario game. These mini bosses are unfortunately very under developed, which is a shame because they all look very interesting. One of them looks like the Hindu God Shiva in everything but name and another is a lady that turns into a jaguar.The great Djimon Hounsou turns up as a character that doesn’t exist in the books with a team of “his best assassins” who seem to drop faster than Storm Troopers.
The entire cast seems like they are either phoning it in or having some fun chewing the scenery, with Julianne Moore being the standout as Malkin. Although her ultimate motivation isn’t very interesting, she seems like she’s having fun throwing fake fire around and luring people to their deaths. Bridges is having a late in life career revival,l and aside from perhaps Tron Legacy or True Grit this might be only the second time Bridges has been given the role of “old guy who still kicks butt”, with the first being the terrible R.I.P.D. that I completely forgot existed. He’s not exactly great here but it seems like he’s having a pretty good time. As for Ben Barnes I don’t think this is going to be the role where he finally breaks into the mainstream, but he’s likable enough as Tom. The subpar effects are only exasperated by dodgy 3D so I wouldn’t recommend seeing it in 3D.
All of this adds up to a movie that I should hate yet, as it was winding down I couldn’t help but be entertained. I’m a sucker for fantasy movies like this and perhaps it was my lack of expectations, but I enjoyed Seventh Son quite a bit. It certainly doesn’t let itself get bogged down by too much story because it’s a story that I’ve seen so many times. Unlike Jupiter Ascending that gets crushed by its own plot, Seventh Son was so simple that it wasn’t distracting. It also had much better pacing and kept things moving. There weren’t that many moments for character beats, but the ones we get are pretty good. The action scenes weren’t great but they don’t overstay their welcome. The movie in general doesn’t overstay its welcome at a brisk 100 minutes.
Perhaps this is just my guilty pleasure genre, and maybe it was my non existent expectations, but I really can’t justify why I liked Seventh Son. It’s not memorable; like I said the story is generic and I’m not going to remember it happened in a week or two, but at the moment I can say that I enjoyed it more than the other release this week, Jupiter Ascending. I feel like I’ve stepped into some bizarro world where someone is going to tell me that Michael Bay was just nominated for an academy award. I’ve been sitting here for the better part of a half hour trying to put into words why I liked Seventh Son, and perhaps this is one of those cases where a movie doesn’t have any weight of expectations and succeeds by merely “not being terrible”.
Seventh Son does absolutely nothing to elevate itself above the rest of the fantasy/action genre, but by the end of the movie I couldn’t deny that I was much more entertained than I thought I would be. I’m not sure I can recommend it except for fantasy buffs who are looking to kill a few hours in the theater, but if dragons and magic genre is your cup of tea you could certainly do worse than Seventh Son.