This is a movie I honestly thought already came out a year or two ago. I remember seeing posters and trailers for it a while ago. This obviously isn’t a good sign that it kept getting pushed back and back to finally get it’s theatrical release much later than originally scheduled. But, I am a big fan of medieval/fantasy novels and films so naturally I’m always up for a good story in the genre. Fantasy stories are so prime for big spectacular adventure films. There is no limit to your imagination in a fantasy world. It’s all the stuff you wish were real but really aren’t (although I imagine dragons would be a pretty scary sight). “Seventh Son” does not make the cut though. It’s not hard to imagine why this was pushed back so many times. “Seventh Son” is as clichéd and lazy as it comes with horrendous storytelling and even poorer character development. This makes a mockery of how to tell a story and how to properly act in one.
After losing his first apprentice in a battle with a witch, a local Spook comes to a young man named Thomas. He apprentices him to learn to fight evil spirits and fight by his side. His first great challenge comes when the powerful Mother Malkin escapes her confinement while the Spook is away. While Thomas also falls for a witch, a Spook’s natural enemy.
With any fantasy story you’re bound to have some overlaps with some tried and true clichés of the genre. There is no way of getting around it. The reluctant hero, the mentor and apprentice, the dark lord and so on and so forth. “Harry Potter” has elements that’s in “Lord of the Rings” and then “Narina” shares traits with “The Hobbit”, and “Star Wars” is similar with “The Odyssey”. There simply is no way of avoiding it. However what a writer or filmmaker can do is excel at those tropes and try to tell that story naturally, and don’t come across as lazy nor rely on them. A good example of that is “Eragon” (the book not the film). The book has every troupe in the playbook but the story is entertaining, well told and is good at using those tropes in interesting ways.
“Seventh Son” (the movie not the book; never read it) has all the tropes but never does it excel at them and instead comes across as lazy because it doesn’t take the time at developing them. It rushes through everything. The reluctant hero essentially shrugs his shoulders when the old Spook comes knocking telling him to be his apprentice and says, “Okay” (can’t waste time with a character with self doubt). The mythology is half baked, and doesn’t go into much detail. I had to look up after online what “the seventh son of the seventh son” meant. Mother Malkin’s reign of terror? The movie doesn’t build up the main villain and we’re suppose to accept her as the ultimate evil? The only thing scary about her is her wardrobe. What is the blood moon? Why do Spooks hunt witches? Isn’t there any good witches in this realm? (Witches can’t seem to catch a break ever since the Salem witch trials). The script relies on tropes to hold itself up but it doesn’t have an interesting and cohesive universe to back it up.
I don’t need every detail explained to me. Having some mystery to your mythology can actualy work in your favor, just look at “Lord of the Rings”. After seeing those movies (or reading the books) you want to go back and learn more about the world. In the process the world becomes richer and richer. The problem is when you can’t understand the basic mechanics of the world, mythology and how it operates you run into major problems.
I’m pretty sure I’ve seen blocks of wood more interesting than any of the characters in the story. Ben Barnes plays Tom Ward, a stoic and naive young hero. He isn’t all that interesting, he is your everyday fantasy hero. No real conflict or passion, just sort of there to be the hero because…a story needs a hero?
Jeff Bridges plays the old Spook, Master Gregory. I’m sort of getting tired of Bridges playing the old mentor character. “R.I.P.D.”, “The Giver”, and now this, it’s getting redundant. Here, I’m not sure what Bridges is going for. He seems to be attempting to be going for a sort of Ian Mckellen Gandalf performance. He tries to joke around, be comforting and a commanding presence all at the same time. The trouble is he isn’t able to pull off any. The jokes he attempts to make you almost do a double take and ask yourself, did he try to be funny? He never has that comforting nature of a Gandalf or an Obi- Wan but instead comes off like (for lack of a better term) an ass hole. He yells and screams at Tom and lectures him about everything he does but offers no advice at all. He is more condescending than he is a mentor.
Sure some of the action sequences are pretty well done for a film of this caliber and some of the special effects are halfway decent. None of that however carries any weight because you don’t care about the characters or the story. There isn’t any cheap fun to have here neither because the movie takes itself way too seriously. Any movie that can make Academy Award Nominated Julianne Moore give a bad performance, is a bad movie that will be remembered for the wrong reasons (and not for the so bad it’s good reasons either).