WRITTEN REVIEW – Seventh Son (2015)
Directed by: Sergei Bodrov
Written by: Matt Greenberg, Charles Leavitt & Aaron Guzikowski
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Alicia Vikander, Julianne Moore & Kit Harington
Music: Marco Beltrami
Release Date: March 27th 2015
‘Seventh Son‘, based on the first instalment of the young-adult book series “The Wardstone Chronicles” by Joseph Delaney, started filming in mid-March 2012. Now, after delay after delay, the finished product is crawling past the finish line and getting released in the UK. So what happened here? Well, ‘Seventh Son‘ was originally scheduled for a February 2013 release. However, that same month, the award-winning visual effects company working on the CGI for ‘Seventh Son‘, Rhythm & Hues, went bankrupt which delayed post-production. Legendary Pictures, who were creating the film for the distributor Warner Bros. gave additional funding to Rhythm & Hues to complete production before closing down for good with a new release date of October 2013.
Then Legendary Pictures separated from Warner Bros and ‘Seventh Son‘ was pushed back to January 2014 to be distributed by Universal Pictures…who then delayed the movie AGAIN with a new release date of early 2015.
Honestly, that story of constant delays is far more interesting than talking about ‘Seventh Son‘ itself, which flopped at the U.S. box-office and received a critical mauling after its initial debut. But you came here to read a 1,700+ word review of a movie so let’s give the people what they want.
‘Seventh Son‘ takes place in a fictional, magical world (Which is never named. Nice. Great world-building…) where a knightly order known as the Spooks fight the forces of darkness to keep the population safe. However, only one of these Spooks remains; Master Gregory (Bridges) and he must find a way to defeat an old adversary he locked up decades ago; Mother Malkin (Moore). To do this, he seeks out Tom Ward (Barnes) who is a Seventh Son of a Seventh Son which should grant him supernatural powers and extra physical abilities. However, Tom does not seem particularly exceptional so Gregory must train him in the art of magic and combat before a centennial event known as the “Blood Moon” as that is when Mother Malkin and her loyal demon followers will be at their most powerful.
It’s a solid set-up, even though the movie is far too focused on opening the story in medias res as the opening of the movie has a young Master Gregory locking Mother Malkin in a prison with no set-up or context that never effectively pays-off later, but it’s still a good start. And ‘Seventh Son‘ is actually full of some pretty awesome ideas on a conceptual level. Master Gregory was once romantically involved with Mother Malkin before being betrayed which is why he has such a disdain for witches and claims that all of them are evil. However, Mother Malkin’s niece, Alice, is a good witch who falls in love with Tom. And Tom, despite being a Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is not physically powerful but inherited some magical abilities from his mother who is also a witch. Gregory has a degree of survivors guilt due to him being the only Spook left which has resulted in him becoming a decrepit and bitter man. Oh and there’s also a scene where two dragons have to fight each other in the sky over the fate of the world.
See, these are great ideas and on paper I can see why a movie like this would attract such an accomplished creative team. The director Sergei Bodrov is an award-winning and Oscar-nominated director, it stars Oscar-winning actors like Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore and the script was re-written by critically acclaimed screenwriters.
The issue is that the movie takes these ideas and these people and does NOTHING with them.
Gregory and Malkin’s romantic past is barely alluded to and plays very little role in their characters other than Gregory’s hatred of witches, Alice is a bog-standard love interest and only loves Tom because there was a “spark” when they first made contact which bounds them for life as lovers (a LITERAL spark), Tom’s magical abilities only extend to prophetic visions which contributes nothing to the story other than foreshadowing. Gregory’s pain and character depth manifests itself as comic relief and a drinking problem and the climax is so uninvolving that even when the dragons turn up to fight each other at the end I just could not care less.
The titular Seventh Son, Tom (who you KNOW is boring because he’s the title character but not the lead) is just a complete blank-slate. Purists of the book are angry that he’s a guy in his late-teens or early 20s as opposed to being a 12-year old like in the books. While I understand the logic of source material purists, I also understand why the original distributor, Warner Bros., wouldn’t want a 12 year old being a main character in what they were hoping would be a ‘The Hunger Games‘ style blockbuster franchise. That being said, Tom has very little depth, the audience get zero sense of attachment to his family before Gregory takes him away (Tom, incidentally, doesn’t even put up a fight) and he’s such a boring character that even Ben Barnes can’t do anything with him. Barnes isn’t particularly good in the movie to begin with, but the core of the problem comes from almost impossibly flat characterisation.
On the other end of the spectrum, you have Jeff Bridges who seems desperate to lead a blockbuster franchise due to his recent acting choices (‘Tron: Legacy‘, ‘R.I.P.D.‘, ‘The Giver‘ and now ‘Seventh Son‘). He’s memorable but for all the wrong reasons. Master Gregory, while entertaining, seems to have walked in from an entirely different movie from an entirely different genre. Bridges seems to mumble and swallow a lot of his words and the use of stunt-doubles for the 65 year old actor is very very noticeable. Most of the time though, he just looks lost on screen, unsure of the type of movie he’s in and while he does try to inject some life into this dull movie, his performance comes across as him experimenting with different personalities as opposed to benefiting the film as a whole.
The performance saving grace comes from Julianne Moore who is clearly having so much fun in the role as an intimidating, confident and malicious witch. She’s powerful, sexy and a great screen presence and you can sense the complete lack of energy whenever she’s not on screen. Also, while I don’t recommend ‘Seventh Son‘, you get to see Academy Award Winner Julianne Moore turn into a friggin’ dragon.
10/10. 5 stars out of 5.
The rest of the cast are lame, but mostly because their roles are under-written. Alicia Vikander, who has done great work recently, is a by-the-numbers love interest, Olivia Williams as Tom’s mother gets practically nothing to do even in her big hero scene and Kit Harington (who filmed this movie before ‘Game of Thrones‘ propelled him into stardom) bites it after 5 minutes. I will give the movie credit for having a great cast of villains. Sure, the character’s aren’t very memorable and the actors can only do so much, but the villainous line-up is far better than the hero team. You’ve got Chinese Actor Jason Scott Lee as a soldier who turns into a bear, West African two-time Academy Award nominee Djimon Hounsou as a chained-blade wielding dragon warrior and South African actor Kandyse McClure as a lethal assassin who can turn into a panther.
Holy shit. Why is ‘Seventh Son‘ not the best movie in the world?
That’s the thing about ‘Seventh Son‘; if I was 10 years old, I probably would have gone nuts for the movie. It’s full of stuff that I should absolutely love. Master Gregory even has a troll sidekick named Tusk who is created through impressive, extensive make-up. But the film just feels so inert and so lacking in gusto and enthusiasm. I would say “If a better creative team had made this movie…” but just look at the pedigree of the people who DID make ‘Seventh Son‘! The people behind the movie have enough Oscars between them to put Peter Jackson to shame, so what the hell happened?
Honestly…I don’t know. I genuinely don’t. I’m looking at the filmography of everyone involved, researching the production history, examining box-office trends from 2010 and 2011 when this movie surely went into pre-production (‘Seventh Son‘ was probably influenced by the success of the young-adult Twilight franchise which was coming to an end and predicting the return of the fantasy/adventure genre with the upcoming ‘The Hobbit‘ trilogy). I’m thinking and thinking and…I’m coming up blank. I don’t know what happened here. All I know is that it makes me sad 🙁
Anyway, the movie has a pretty modest run-time of 102 minutes but it still feels boring and over-long. Probably because there’s very little drama under the surface as the movie glosses over any potential character-beats as well the fact that it’s in such a hurry to move from one action set-piece to another. The action is okay and great in conception but it’s so dramatically distant that long before the climax shows up you just want the movie to be over already. Academy Award nominated composer Marco Beltrami lends his chops to a decent fantasy score with a pretty awesome main theme and the creature designs are also top-tier which should make any behind-the-scenes features on home media an interesting watch.
But the movie itself; not an interesting watch. I’d just LOVE to know what happened here because there’s so much potential in the premise with such an accomplished cast with an award-winning creative team. All the pieces were in place. The stars were aligned. But ‘Seventh Son‘ is just a by-the-numbers, boring and narratively uninspired fantasy flop. That being said, I’m tempted to buy the DVD of this just so I can absorb as much behind-the-scenes content as possible to try and do a post-mortem of ‘Seventh Son‘. It’s a much more interesting movie to talk about then it is to watch. Julianne Moore was good though. Not quite ‘Still Alice‘, but her character and her villainous lieutenants are easier to root for then a self-loathing Jeff Bridges.
I give ‘Seventh Son‘ 1 star out of 5.
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Posted: 9th Apr 15