I don’t know why I do this to myself. I don’t know why I allow myself to merrily go along to see films that I know will do little for me, and will probably be pretty damn awful. Sometimes it works out, Jupiter Ascending turned out to be a lot of fun, and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stands as my guiltiest pleasure of the last year/decade, but for the most part they turn out exactly as expected (or worse, Annabelle). Fantasy movies are a dime a dozen, so to be remembered as a great one often requires something special. Something Seventh Son lacks distinctly.
In a time of magic and sorcery, a powerful witch, named Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) has escaped from being imprisoned underground and is hell bent on taking over the world with her fellow powerful and magical brothers and sisters. The man who imprisoned her, Witch Hunting Spook Gregory (Jeff Bridges) seeks out a new apprentice to help him in his quest to vanquish Malkin once and for all. He soon finds his apprentice in the form of young farm-hand Tom (Ben Barnes). The seventh son of a seventh son, Tom is prophesied to help rid the land of the evil that threatens it (I think anyway, the seventh son thing isn’t really explained), and begins to learn the ways of witch-hunting from the old master, Gregory.
What drew me to Seventh Son is the fact that it is a film that has a long and troubled production. I cannot resist a movie which has had a troubled production. I will forever be curious to see how a film can get through so many troubles to actually emerge with a finish product that the studio is ok with finally releasing (or not). The case with Seventh Son is not of controversy, just more of a case in which no one seemed to know what to do with it. The film was shot in 2012, and took a great deal of time in post-production, largely due to the fact that the VFX company tasked with the film went bankrupt. Originally set for a February 2013 release (I know, right!?), the film was further set back due to the breakdown of partnership between Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures, with Legendary selling the distribution rights of Seventh Son on to Universal. The film was then supposed to come out January 2014, but Universal held the film back for over a year, and now here we are. Finally. And man, was it not worth the wait.
Based on a children’s fantasy novel, the story of Seventh Son is nothing new; young farm-boy enters a world of magic and must learn his potential, and maybe fall in love along the way. It is a well trodden formula, and despite some engaging VFX designs, Seventh Son does little with it. Barnes is an uncharismatic leading man, who just holds a constant look of confusion as he goes through the proceedings (or was it meant to be a smoulder? I can’t tell). Alicia Vikander fares better as the witch love interest, but in a year which has seen her turn in two carefully crafted performances in Ex Machina and Testament of Youth, this is a film she could really do without in her current string of successes.
Seventh Son reeks of a film that no one involved particularly cared all that much about, but perhaps not as much as the distributors. There is fun to be had in the performances from Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore, both of whom know that they are cashing in an easy pay check. Bridges in particular tries to throw in some sleight humour to under-cut the poe-faced seriousness of the rest of the movie, moments which are unfortunately few but very funny when they do arrive. Moore hams it up to the high heavens as chief antagonist, but ultimately is given little to do but occasionally monologue before transforming in to a dragon.
It is to the film’s credit that it looks as good as it does, haven been shot back in 2012 and had effects completed by a VFX company on the brink of bankruptcy, but this fails to cover up the fact that this film is as dull as a pile of troll dung. It occupies 100 minutes of your time in a mildly distracting manner, but will do very little to rouse you, what with obnoxious 3-D effects throwing everything it can at the screen, and only a couple of entertaining side-gags delivered by Bridges. A over-designed movie which has very little fire in its belly. Probably best to avoid.