Rating: 6 out of 10
Jeff Bridges as Master Gregory
Ben Barnes as Tom Ward
Julianne Moore as Mother Malkin
Alicia Vikander as Alice
Kit Harington as Billy Bradley
Djimon Hounsou as Radu
Olivia Williams as Mam
Antje Traue as Bony Lizzie
Jason Scott Lee as Urag
Kandyse McClure as Sarikin
David Cubitt as Rogue Knight
Gerard Plunkett as Prelate
Luc Roderique as Strix
Lilah Fitzgerald as Cate Ward
Directed by Sergei Bodrov
Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) is a “spook,” who travels across the country fighting demons and witches, but after the death of his latest apprentice, he needs to find a new seventh son of a seventh son to help him. This brings him to Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), a young man who he calls upon to take on Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), a powerful witch whose power will thrive with the coming of the blood moon.
Based on Joseph Delaney’s novel “The Spook’s Apprentice,” this is a pretty simple fantasy premise that involves good guys and evil women, yet for all its fantastic action sequences and CG monsters, it still comes across as fairly bland and dull, maybe because we’ve seen this sort of thing before.
At its best, Seventh Son reminded me of the joys of watching The Golden Voyage of Sinbad when I was younger because it has the same simplicity in terms of Bridges and Barnes fighting creatures, but you would hope that a movie like this would have more of a sense of fun than it does.
As the film opens, we watch as Bridges’ Master Gregory cages something high up in a mountain which we learn later is the dragon form of Julianne Moore’s witch Mother Malkin, who escapes years later to cause Gregory more problems, including the death of his current apprentice. Along comes Ben Barnes as Tom, another seventh son of a seventh son recruited by Gregory to put a stop to Malkin’s plans. Tom falls for an attractive young witch, played by Alicia Vikander, whose mother happens to be one of Malkin’s minions.
Even if you know about the behind-the-scenes issues that delayed this movie’s release for years, it’s surprisingly not that horrendous of a movie. It’s the first film from Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov to be released in the States since his 2007 breakout Mongol, and it’s clear he was hired for his ability to provide beautiful visuals, both naturally from the landscapes as he does using CG. There’s definitely more substance to the film than these FX-heavy action movies usually justify, but it still has its share of problems.
It doesn’t help that Jeff Bridges’ accent as Master Gregory is so ridiculous you might think he’s just clowning around at first. After a few minutes you realize that “No, he is indeed going to talk in that awful accent the entire movie,” and while you certainly can get used to it, it does take some time.
Similarly, one might think that this would be a bad career move for Julianne Moore, who seems to be less than a month from winning her first Oscar, but she actually puts just enough into the role for it to be a decent villain without overdoing it, which is often the case. If Mother Malkin isn’t a silly enough name for the main villain, she has a bunch of underlings with equally silly names, although at least they have suitable powers and abilities to make up for it.
There are actually a number of solid action sequences and the creature FX are also done fairly well, but we’ve seen much better dragons and creatures in the Peter Jackson movies, so it feels somewhat redundant and unnecessary. They also don’t know how to differentiate from the way that the various creatures are killed as most of them just dissolve into CG ashes once beaten.
Mind you, Seventh Son isn’t horrible, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that The Hobbit and “Game of Thrones” both have done this form of the fantasy genre much better in recent years.