Dragons, Witches, and Adventure… and a Collective Yawn.
Director: SERGEI BODROV/2015
Seventh Son is Jeff Bridges’ latest foray into possible new series following the dreadful R.I.P.D., and last year’s snooze-fest The Giver. And while this is much better than The Giver, and Oscar worthy compared toR.I.P.D., you kind of wish that Mr. Bridges would be more interested in giving us projects worthy of his talents such as Crazy Heart or anything with the Coen Brothers.
In much the same vein as his character in R.I.P.D., Bridges plays a Spook named Gregory. Basically, he is a knight tasked with fighting creatures, ghosts, and especially witches during medieval times. As we are introduced to Gregory, he is seemingly drunk and in no shape to respond to the tolling bells that summon his help. As is typical in such fare, someone challenges him to fight in the bar and we learn that ole Gregory is not as frail and in need of help as he appears. With an apprentice in tow, he heads to the church to help a little girl who we find is being possessed by a witch with a vendetta towards Gregory. Her name is Mother Malkin (played here by Julianne Moore) and she desires to be queen of the bad guys and unleash her fury on the world.
The film has a strong supporting cast. Olivia Williams (Sixth Sense, Rushmore), Alicia Vikander (A Royal Affair, Anna Karenina), Ben Barnes (The Chronicles of Narnia series, Stardust), Antje Traue (Man of Steel), and Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator, Blood Diamond, Guardians of the Galaxy, and Amistad) round out the larger roles of the story.
Ben Barnes plays Tom Ward, who is the seventh son of his father who is also a seventh son. This is significant in the world that Gregory operates in and of course there is a special power/significance attached to this. This was also the concept in an Iron Maiden album back in the day, so maybe there should have been a promotional tie-in of some sort. When Gregory’s apprentice is killed in a battle with Mother Malkin, Gregory has less than a week to teach Tom Ward the ways of the trade and get him up to speed if they are going to stop Mother Malkin’s world domination plans before the upcoming blood moon when she will be at her full power.
In a by-the-numbers approach to films of this genre, Seventh Son of course has Tom Ward meet and fall for a beautiful girl, who is accused of being a witch and then gives him the struggle of training to go and kill the witches while also being in love in one. Of course it works in reverse as well where the witches have asked this girl, Alice (Vikander), to spy on the spook and his apprentice in order defeat them, but she is also in love….or is she?
The production value is fairly good for this film, and I saw it in IMAX 3D. In many ways it reminded me of a very updated type of Van Helsing-story where the protagonist fights the monsters of his day while also having a bit of their darkness within himself. Substitute witches who transform into dragons for Dracula and Werewolves and you can see the resemblance. With Universal wanting to kick start a classic monsters shared universe, maybe this is one way they could do it, though there is nothing classic about any of these monsters.
Julianne Moore certainly brings gravitas to the role but it is a largely forgettable one, and really beneath her skillset, especially following Still Alice, What Maisie Knew and Don Jon being produced over the last couple of years. Bridges will be more remembered for the strange voice he employs to make Gregory unique than the character will be remembered at all.
On the whole, it is a decent and fun adventure film so long as one knows that it is basically a high-budgeted version of what could basically be a sy-fy movie. Every cliché is added for good measure, and there will be no surprises in the narrative or the action. It all has a “I’ve seen this before” quality to it, even with a strong cast. And while it could be set up for future installments, the film is kind enough to wrap up the story with no real loose ends save some bells ringing, summoning our spook to another adventure. Most likely, though, as it relates to sequels, this will be their last ride.