IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 102 min
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
The malevolent witch Mother Malkin is imprisoned in a chamber by Master Gregory, the last of a knightly order known as the Spooks who have long defended humanity against supernatural threats. After many years have passed, the beginning of a centennial event known as the Blood Moon increases Malkin’s power, allowing her to morph into the form of a dragon and break free from her confinement. When Gregory’s latest apprentice is killed, the last hope of carrying on his trade falls to Tom Ward, who is plagued by visions of Gregory, Malkin and an unknown girl who he soon comes across, but who could be a witch….
This extremely generic, empty fantasy actioner isn’t actually very good at all, but it is rather fun if you want to totally switch your brain off or want something to laugh at. The film, which was originally scheduled for release over two years ago and was pulled twice by studios who obviously weren’t very happy with it, is already a major flop. It doesn’t seem to be pleasing many, not least fans of the book, The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delany, and the first of a series, who are understandably annoyed by, for example, that Tom is a 12 year old boy in the book but has been turned into an adult played by the 34 year old Ben Barnes, something that probably completely changes the dynamics of much of the story. A bigger problem to me is that the whole thing seems incredibly rushed, with no sense of world building. In a manner opposite to the Hobbit trilogy, Seventh Son feels like three films cut haphazardly down to a single brisk 102 min film, with perhaps some new footage shot to try and cover up the gaps. One of the dumbest parts of the film is when two character have gone separate ways, they don’t say anything to each other, and then a few scenes later one of them finds the other in a random remote location in the woods, with no explanation for how he found him, it just happens. He isn’t even surprised he managed to find him! But then you also one character who, upon meeting the recently freed witch queen, has a reaction which completely contradicts what we learn at the end of the film.
Yes, this is an often stupid film with badly constructed, sometimes almost random plotting and a whole assortment of unintentionally funny scenes. There’s an amulet that isn’t mentioned during the first half of the movie at all, that everyone but the protagonist seems to know what it is, what it does, and that it shouldn’t fall into the hands of the witch-queen – which means that at some point it ends up in the hands of the witch-queen – but despite being very powerful and vitally important, all it does is make her staff glow and the witch queen more seductive or something. The death of the first apprentice points out how not even ten years of apprenticeship are enough to beat the witch queen, despite her not being at her most powerful point just yet, but this is completely undone later in the story by the protagonist going from loser to awesome by defeating an unbeatable giant by stabbing it in the forehead after only one day of throwing knives at a skull. A warlock is killed when he slowly watches his antagonist slowly levitate a pitchfork and aim it at him, pulls a stupid face at her, then looks utterly confused when she impales him with it. The fact that he’d previously been jumping around like Toad from X-Men makes it all the more hilarious, though just as funny is when a bunch of super assassins employ their special move of jumping out of trees really far away from the good guy.
Some bad movies are just tedious, but some bad movies can be a lot of fun, and Seventh Son certainly is fun. The story sometimes progresses in a near-dreamlike manner and actually some of the action sequences, despite relying largely on CGI, are well staged and fairly easy to follow. The forces of darkness attacking a city is an especially exciting sequence, though it comes across as being overly cut to the bone or almost unfinished as does much of the film. Having not that long ago sat through the last Hobbit picture, I must admit that I rather enjoyed not having things in a fantasy film that weren’t drawn out or extended beyond their natural life, even if in this film things go too far down the opposite route. Set and creature design are good [like the way some of these dragons seem to be very birdlike], the locations are well chosen and the cast do seem to be having fun, but Jeff Bridges takes his familiar ‘gurning and mumbling with protruding bottom jaw’ schtick to truly ludicrous extremes here, to the point where it’s impossible to take the character seriously.
The romance is unconvincing, while the story hints at some interesting developments which aren’t really followed through, such as a suggestion that there are no real good guys nor bad guys in this world. All this is set to an almost non-stop, extremely loudly mixed score by Marco Beltrami that is entirely devoid of anything memorable. Seventh Son is truly a very disappointing English language directorial debut from Russian director Sergei Bodrov, whose Mongol and Prisoner Of The Mountain would lead one to expect far more. Yet I rather enjoyed it, if not always in the way that the filmmakers intended. It’s pretty entertaining, if often in the wrong way. Approach it as a comedy and the film will suddenly seem much better. I’ve given it a pretty low rating, because this isn’t a good movie, but I will be buying the Blu-ray for lots of fun and laughs.