Genre: Action and Adventure
Director: Sergei Bodrov
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Olivia Williams, Antje Traue, Djimon Hounsou, Julianne Moore
Release Date: February 6th, 2015
In the new fantasy drama Seventh Son, hospital Jeff Bridges plays Master Gregory a curmudgeonly witch-hunter who is searching for a new apprentice to carry on his legacy. Despite their intense training, his former apprentices keep dying on him. When one (Game of Thrones‘ Kit Harington) is killed early in the movie after ten years of training, Gregory is heartbroken. Actually, “inconvenienced” would be a better word to describe his feelings on the subject.
After the venomous witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) murders the apprentice, Gregory stoically notes, “Ten damn years wasted.” A sympathetic mentor, he is not.
It’s no wonder that no one wants to work with him. Not only are individuals who work with him putting their lives at risk but they are spending time with a guide who barely cares about them.
Once that apprentice dies, Gregory starts hunting for a chosen one to take his place— a seventh son of a seventh son. He finds such a boy in Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), a farmer who knows nothing about fighting. No matter. Gregory pays off Ward’s parents and the boy is thrust on an adventure with a snarky, snarling, slacker as his boss.
Their quest: to destroy Mother Malkin and her team of evil monsters and fellow witches.
Adapted from Joseph Delaney’s novel The Spook’s Apprentice, the movie is a bland mythical drama that feels stuck in the tiresome tropes of the genre. Despite the forgettable script though, Moore and Bridges manage to bring some dignity to the proceedings (unlike Redmayne whose performance in Jupiter Ascending is a disaster movie in and of itself).
In fact, Bridges brings a rugged tired quality to his character that makes him interesting to watch. One never knows how willing he is to just leave Ward behind and just move on to the next apprentice. He’s not a likeable character (he says that his unwavering sidekick Tusk is “as loyal as he is ugly,” which seems to be the greatest compliment he’s ever delivered) but he’s unpredictable, unlike the movie itself.
Ward, unfortunately, is saddled as a forgettable character, whose personality (is there one?) is as unremarkable as the story’s plot. Never having fought in battle, Ward is forced to accept training lessons from Gregory. It took Gregory a decade to train an apprentice who gets killed in the movie’s first ten minutes. The film then asks us to believe that Ward, a nonviolent farmer at heart, learns how to battle the mythical forces of evil in seven days while taking time out for his new girlfriend Alice (Alicia Vikander). Oh please.
Alice, who is Mother Malkin’s niece, is— of course— torn between her family obligations and Ward.
The Seventh Son likely won’t be one of the worst movies of the year but it’s one that never really tries anything unique. Ward and Alice and others in the cast get caught up in the melodramatic story but Bridges and even Moore, to an extent, make the most out of their over-the-top characters. Bridges especially seems to be winking to the audience at every turn.
It’s reported that Seventh Son was filmed years ago and stuck on a shelf for a long time. It’s no wonder. It’s a bad film. It’s not as bad as you might fear but it’s definitely not as good as you would hope.
Review by: John Hanlon