Imagine you’re at a party with Oscar-winning actor Jeff Bridges, and for some reason he leans over to you and says, “Want to hear my impersonation of Sean Connery playing Gandalf the wizard?” Obviously you respond with, “Yes! Of course!” and then he virtually explodes with a deep, booming Welsh/British/Dagobah and delivers a drunken soliloquy about evil witches and haunted trees. As he leans in to ask if you’re “The Sheventh Shon of a sheventh shon?!?” you start to walk away – but Mr. Bridges grabs your wrist and asks you to sit down for 92 minutes more of this weird nonsense.
That’s pretty much what the formless, inert, and patently familiar Seventh Son feels like: you’re stuck watching a great actor spout nonsense about wizards and trees, and all you really want to do is go home. I’m not saying the world couldn’t use another paint-by-numbers fantasy movie about witches and monsters that was greenlit during the great Young Adult Cinematic Uprising of the early 2000s; Aside from Jeff Bridges’ outrageously goofy performance (and some bonus wackiness from Julianne Moore as the wildly evil head witch), there’s nothing in Seventh Son that you haven’t seen in stuff like Eragon, Season of the Witch, and The Seeker: The Dark is Rising. Yeah, it falls into that category.
Based on the novel The Spook’s Apprentice by British writer Joseph Delaney, Seventh Son is about a marble-mouthed old warrior who enlists a young apprentice on his quest to rid the world of an evil witch who used to be his girlfriend. She’s called Mother Malkin, and she has control over all sorts of nefarious computer-animated creatures, none of which are able to thwart Master Gregory (Bridges) and Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), but do manage to give the viewer an amusing visual respite from all the tedious dialogue and stunningly predictable plot threads. Also there are a few scenes involving Tom and a pretty young witch, which covers the YA romance quota and delivers the “people are not always what they seem” subtext before hastily moving on to something involving a giant bear or a six-armed swordsman.
One hates to knock a film that strives to be little more than a diverting piece of adventure story escapism, but given how many movies we’ve already seen that are JUST LIKE THIS ONE, it’s tough to not feel a little bit slighted. The idea is that if one “YA” property becomes a smash hit, then they all will, and sometimes producers follow an established template like an architect follows a blueprint. While it’s clear that many of the crew and craftspeople did some solid work on Seventh Son, the whole thing simply feels processed. You could call it “Male-Oriented Fantasy Adventure Epic #122,” and just toss it onto a shelf.
Forced to designate a saving grace, the special effects would probably warrant a special mention. Virtually all of the action sequences are simply dropped into the proceedings at random, and while there isn’t much in the “stakes” department (nearly everyone is immortal except for the evil henchmen and giant monsters), much of the creature design and digital animation is actually pretty cool. Unfortunately, a fantasy adventure film needs more than “cool creatures,” a typically rousing Marco Beltrami score, and two certifiably over-the-top performances (from two very good actors) to make a lasting impression.
But if you’ve got a beer (or a bong) and you want to savour Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore devouring every piece of scenery on display, plus some cool monsters and solid music, you may find some amusement here.
Scott Weinberg (@ScottEWeinberg)