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Thursday, February 5, 2015

Movie Review: Seventh Son

The fantasy Seventh Son never endears itself, making swooping dragons, witches, and epic battles about as bland as possible.

Review by Matt Cummings

In Sergey Bodrov's teen lit fantasy Seventh Son, a young man (Ben Barnes) is whisked away by the dangerous Seeker Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges), who believes his special talent as a seventh son of a seventh son will help him to combat the reemergence of the witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), who was imprisoned decades before by Gregory. Her arrival spells dark days for the region, and Gregory has been called to deal with her. Using a collection of specialized weapons and training, Gregory and Tom venture off to do battle, not knowing just how big the threat has become. Malkin has assembled a collection of dangerous sorcerers and witches, including Radu (Djimon Hounsou) and Bony Lizzie (Antje Traue) all of whom have wanted Gregory dead for years. But Gregory has a few tricks up his sleeve, especially when he learns that Tom is much more powerful than he realizes, but also isn't aware of his love affair with the witch Alice (Alicia Vikander). As the blood moon rises and Malkin's power grows, a final battle ensues that will determine whether the region lives free or under the oppression of evil sorcery.

The incredible success of Teen Literary (or YA) books is probably as simple as this: they key on the fantastical nature of kids' minds, mixing in action and romance in a way that demands you pay attention to it. And yet in Seventh Son, the plastic nature of the release is so disappointing - it never elevates itself beyond that which has been done before, deciding instead to play it safe with very good but not stunning CGI and a story by Writers Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight that never takes many bold chances. Characters are never fully fleshed out, limiting any attachment we might have to purely superficial status, and the situations we find them in are never explained well enough. Director Bodrov never makes the environment feel lived in or unique in any way, allowing his actors instead to don attitudes and appearances that make them feel very one-off copies of many Lord of the Rings characters.

The same goes for our actors, many of whom appear ill-fitted for their role. Bridges plays yet another version of the crunchy-granola mystery man who's hard to hear throughout but suddenly comes to life when his drink is in danger. It's not a realistic character in any form, yet Bridges continues to wear out the role which in Tron: Legacy was endearing but is now as boring as the multitude of similar roles that Johnny Depp continues to play. Moore, while incredibly talented, doesn't bring that gravitas to Mother Malkin, settling instead on a fairly generic interpretation that's been done so much better in recent films like Snow White and The Huntsman. Barnes portrays Tom like a kid who's tired of watching television but whose desire to anything more is based entirely on what he can get out of it. He's supposed to be the exception, a Seventh Son and the child of a witch, but instead of fulfilling his destiny or merely displaying extreme potential, we find Barnes and Tom milling around waiting for something great to come to them. That plays out in the obligatory "I quit!" sequence, only we know that Tom will be back and will somehow gain the rep that the Writers seem to think he earns.

Our IMAX screening was a bit of a letdown too, as the 3D experience wasn't as clear as I had come to expect and was downright disappointing in its blurriness throughout. The score by Marco Beltrami was the one exception to an otherwise dull affair, a bit bombastic and even a little epic in spots, even though none of it you'll remember as soon as it's over.

Seventh Son won't go down as the worst film of 2015, but its generic-speaking peoples living in some of generic background won't endear itself to those who haven't read the book. Performances re solid but non-descript , with Moore and Bridges front and center but never leading. I hope the actual release is clearer than our IMAX experience, which looked very fuzzy and certainly nothing near what I expected from a premium experience. Should this get a greenlight for a sequel, look for major changes to occur before audiences would take another plunge.

Seventh Son is rated PG-13 for intense fantasy violence and action throughout, frightening images and brief strong language and has a runtime of 102 minutes.

Discuss this review with fellow SJF fans on Facebook. On Twitter, follow us at @SandwichJohnFilms, and follow author Matt Cummings at @mfc90125.

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