Seventh Son (2015)
Editor’s Notes: Seventh Son opens in wide theatrical release today, February 6th.
An uninspired, derivative, bargain-basement action-fantasy directed by Sergey Bodrov (Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan, Prisoner of the Mountains) from a screenplay credited to Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight, Seventh Son finally arrives in multiplexes after seemingly endless delays, seemingly endless, that is, for anyone actually anticipating the release of Seventh Son. Notable less for its plot (clichéd), characters (wafer-thin), or visual effects (passable, if unremarkable) than future Oscar winner Julianne Moore and one-time Oscar winner Jeff Bridges collecting semi-sizable paychecks between more challenging, artistically oriented work, Seventh Son will be relegated to the dustbin of cinematic history by this time next week.
Seventh Son will be relegated to the dustbin of cinematic history by this time next week.
When we first meet Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges), a “Spook” (witch/demon hunter) in the parlance of the film, his starter apprentice, Billy Bradley (Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington), a seventh son (as all apprentices ostensibly are), runs afoul of Seventh Son’s weirdly named, shape-shifting Big Bad/Maleficent without the semi-tragic backstory, Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), oddly because she shares a last name with a C-level right-wing pundit, Michelle Malkin. Bradley doesn’t last long, leaving Master Gregory in sudden, if not quite desperate, need of a new apprentice. With a once-in-a-century blood moon a few days away, Master Gregory goes on a non-urgent search for a new apprentice, a seventh son of a seventh son, presumably because the seventh sons of seventh sons have mystical and/or supernatural powers that make them prime candidates for the witch hunting profession (and not much else).
Oddly, the seventh sons of seventh sons aren’t particularly rare in the Seventh Son movie-verse. They’re (almost) everywhere or at least they’re relatively easy to find hanging about a lakeside homestead herding piglets and otherwise hoping for something, anything to take him (always a him where traditional fantasy is concerned) to take the seventh son of a seventh son, Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), away from a life of dreary drudgery and bland dullness. Before long, Master Gregory and his new, ultra-green apprentice are on the literal road to Malkin’s not-too-distant mountain stronghold, but not before making a pit stop at a nearby fortified town where Ward becomes enchanted and/or besotted with an accused witch/obligatory romantic interest, Alice (Alicia Vikander). Their romance, such as it is, blooms without much heat or chemistry between the characters or the actors playing the actors.
Seventh Son culminates – if “culminates” is the right word for a film that lacks any sense of urgency from the first frame to the last perfunctory shot …
Meanwhile (and there’s always a meanwhile in the Seventh Son movie-verse), Malkin acquires a small, budget-conscious army of witches eager to help her cause, becoming – to borrow a phrase from another, far more superior fantasy film – more powerful than anyone could have imagined (in the usual, small-scale apocalyptic sense, of course). Interpersonal issues between Malkin and Gregory also play a not insignificant role in mid- and end-film complications (assuming anyone cares by that point). Sadly, couples therapy isn’t (or wasn’t) an option. Seventh Son’s anti-witch bias shouldn’t come as a surprise (the only good witch is a half-human witch), but the message about powerful women (they’re to be feared, distrusted, and eliminated if necessary) slips dangerously close into the sexism and misogyny all too often found in the genre.
Seventh Son culminates – if “culminates” is the right word for a film that lacks any sense of urgency from the first frame to the last perfunctory shot – on a smallish, cramped soundstage that could have been easily borrowed from a cable TV production like the now defunct Spartacus. Unfortunately, Bodrov adds little to the desultory, flaccid proceedings, occasionally composing a technically competent, if unmemorable, shot or stopping long enough to show action/stunt choreography as it happens rather than the confusion-generating, rapid-fire edits typical of Hollywood filmmaking, but that’s far from enough to elevate Seventh Son beyond late-night/early morning cable fodder.
Seventh Son is an uninspired, derivative, bargain-basement action-fantasy.