Sunday, February 08, 2015

Movie Review: Seventh Son

Save your money
A strange, mostly harmless attempt at medieval fantasy. Come for the mythical beasts, stay for Jeff Bridges' bizarro performance.
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I need to get the weirdest thing about Seventh Son out of the way upfront: Jeff Bridges—who plays John Gregory, a "spook" who helps rid the world of evil creatures—sounds like he's Gandalf with really bad dentures. It's this gruff, gravelly voice belonging to a man who always seems to have his mouth full of mashed potatoes. Did director Sergei Bodrov advise him to talk like that? Or was it Bridges' idea and Bodrov was too intimidated by his star to suggest clearer enunciation? I couldn't get over it.

So that was the first thing that threw me and stopped me from being able to fully suspend disbelief, which is kind of critical with a fantasy film. The next (bigger) issue is that the entire premise of Seventh Son is illogical. Ben Barnes plays Tom Ward, a weak-seeming pig farmer prone to seizures that make him pass out. But since he's "the seventh son of the seventh son," he must become Gregory's apprentice. Huh? Wouldn't Gregory want the best and most skilled right-hand man he could find to fight supernatural beasts alongside him? Apparently not. It's gotta be Tom.
Isn't ANY comparison to Gandalf a compliment?
Gregory mentions that he trained his past apprentices (all of whom died on the job) for months or years, but he only has one week to get Tom in shape to help him defeat Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), a witch queen who's out for serious revenge after Gregory stranded her in an underground cave a decade ago. She's finally escaped and her evil-doing powers will be fully charged when the Blood Moon arrives in seven days. But for all the urgency this situation would seem to justify, Gregory, Tom and their tusked roadie, er, Tusk (John DeSantis), just dawdle along the countryside waiting for Malkin's various cronies to attack.

And attack they do. Those are the coolest sequences in the film; several members of Team Witch transform seamlessly into various beasts, including a bear, a dragon, a leopard, and more. But while it's fun to watch and impressive to look at, it gets old really quickly when you just don't care about any of the characters. Barnes' just can't match the screen presence of either Bridges or Moore (who's at least having fun), which doesn't make for a very believable hero. And half the time he's distracted by Alice (Alicia Vikander), a half-witch who's also reporting his every move back to home base. Vikander is a jaw-droppingly beautiful actress and is trying her best here, but despite her good looks and Barnes', they just don't share any believable chemistry. She gave me flashes of Robin Wright in The Princess Bride (my all-time favorite movie), so I hope the other six movies she has coming out this year treat her better than Seventh Son did.
Wow, high praise, E!

The biggest crime Bodrov and screenwriters Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond) and Steven Knight (Eastern Promises) committed with this film, which is based on a YA book series (what isn't?), is that the plot and character development took a backseat to the action sequences and effects. So if you're only interested in seeing really cool mythical creatures wreak havoc, Seventh Son is the movie for you. But if you're looking for a new twist on a mighty old formula, you're out of luck here.

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