FILM REVIEW: SEVENTH SON
Release date: 27/03/2015
102 mins | 12A
Writers: Charles Leavitt, Steven Knight, and Matt Greenberg
Director: Sergei Bodrov
Cast: Julianne Moore, Kit Harington, Alicia Vikander, Ben Barnes, Jeff Bridges
In my defense, I was curious.
Seventh Son, purporting itself to be the first in a series of films based on YA series The Wardstone Chronicles, just hit the screens in the UK. So I went along on a Saturday night, mildly curious, post delicious sushi dinner. The first warning was probably the blurb Cineworld put on the listing, which made a huge deal about the special effects. The second was Kit Harington having billing. Third, the fact the screening room had maybe 4 groups of punters, 6:30 on a Saturday. But still, I stayed the course. Surely a pretty special effects movie would at least be entertaining to look at.
Well, you know you’re in a bad place when the first thing that springs to mind while watching something is Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters but played straight.
So let’s just get right down to it: like quite a few fantasy book adaptations, Seventh Son basically plays as a greatest hits of the source material, with minimal interest to anyone who isn’t already invested in the story. We start off with a fabulous intro that isn’t tonally matched at all with the rest of the film. Then it’s immediately off to a standard hero’s journey, which apparently takes place within the span of two weeks? In time for the blood moon. In fact, it’s so play by numbers that you can pretty much call every plot twist that ambles along. Sure, fantasy is possibly the most derivative of pop culture genres, but it’s been fifteen years since Lord of the Rings premiered. Surely we’ve reached a point where it’s OK to play with the standard formula a bit if you’re getting paid to make a film that other people will actually see.
One thing Seventh Son certainly proves, though, is that the fantasy ghetto is definitely a thing in acting. When’s the last time we saw Ben “Prince Caspian” Barnes in a lead role that didn’t involve him running around in a tunic with sword? Moment of silence for all the leading men who never quite got it off the ground. At least Alicia Vikander will probably emerge unscathed, having a full slate of movies already lined up for the year including Oscar bait like The Danish Girl. Her turn in the remarkably fast paced romantic subplot (zero to eternal devotion in how long?) was shaky on a level normally expected in TV movies.
You may remember that, much like Jupiter Ascending for pretty much everyone involved, there were some rumblings that Seventh Son might Norbit Julianne Moore’s nom for Still Alice. While this wasn’t on the level of Eddie Redmayne’s shouty whisper acting master class, Moore’s performance was, indeed, quite janky, with all the depth of a villain of the week on the Beastmaster TV show. The role ends up playing like Eva Green on Valium – fabulous clothes and flat delivery. It makes you wonder, because it’s clear she’s not hurting for roles at the moment, how she ended up sucked into this. Labyrinthine contracts? A favor? Blackmail? Now that’s an E! True Hollywood Story I would watch.
While were here, let’s just discuss Jeff Bridges, who clearly has reached that special stage in his career where he just does not give a rat’s ass about creating distinct characters any more – this is basically the same character he’s played the last five outings. Master Gregory also delivers lines like he’s in the middle of a game of Chubby Bunny after gargling gravel, which sticks out like a sore thumb in amongst the rest of the dialogue. Didn’t someone care enough to flag the intelligibility issues in post? Or do subtitles? What can I say but get that pay cheque, Jeff.
But what about production design prettiness, you say. Well, boring might have almost been better than the infuriating flashes of potential we glimpsed. Basically, this movie shows hints of world building that, with a completely different plot, could have really been something. It’s a solid example of how to create a world beyond your standard Northern European medieval pastiche for epic fantasy – just take a look at all that Ottoman architecture, for one! However, the rushed treatment means the film doesn’t really earn its world building, and you’re left with a bunch of international-flavor witch lietenants who show up only to be cut down.
And therein lies one major glaring problem. For a bunch of legendary fiends and assassins with kill counts in the thousands, the baddies sure were cut down with no problem at all by a newbie. No stakes, no interest, no flair, just steady dispatching. Bleurgh.
In the end, it’s all a bit Saturday afternoon movie, maybe in a triple bill with the Dark Is Rising first and followed by I Am Number Four. What is curious, though, is how this film got made and released in this day and age. Wide release, no less! There has to be a story here, some kind of investment shenanigans and Hollywood politics behind the scenes. Maybe that would make an actual good movie. Good movie, I remember those…