I can see the studios frothing over Seventh Son during the pitch: “It’s Harry Potter meets Lord of the Rings, based on young adult fiction called A Spook’s Apprentice. We change the name to something snappier and we’ve got ourselves a franchise!” How they got The Dude and Maude Lebowski in this movie, I’ll never know.
Seventh Son is the origin story of Thomas Ward (Ben Barnes), a pig farmer in an undisclosed medieval time who also happens to have visions of the future. Thomas has aspirations to “do more than just feed the pigs”, as he tells his sister looking longingly into the distance, right before seizing into one of his visions. In his fever dream, he sees a Falcon Knight, a term for a noble warrior devoted to fighting demons that apparently can be used interchangeably with “Spook”. Cut to that very Spook, Master Gregory, showing up on his family’s doorstep demanding to see “the seventh son of the seventh son!”, a plot device that only seems to matter because it sounds cool. Master Gregory pays the family handsomely for the seventh son (Tom), in what seems like an act of voluntary slavery, after Gregory’s previous apprentice is killed in battle.
The pair set out, with the help of Gregory’s friendly monster, Tusk, to slay morphing dragons and other minions in an effort to get to Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), a newly-freed witch who Gregory locked away many years ago. Oh, and they don’t have much time, because they are one week away from the Blood Moon, a phenomenon that happens once a century and brings many years of demon war. Mother Malkin will be unstoppable unless the Spook and his apprentice can slay her before the rise of the Blood Moon! (I can’t believe I just typed that.)
This plot is utterly preposterous, even by young adult action fantasy standards, but I’ll concede that I’m not the target audience. Still, the writing is extremely lazy, with relentless exposition being mistaken for clever world-building and jokes like “I wish I was the sixth son”, as Tom rolls his eyes before heading into a skirmish. And I didn’t even mention the trite, ham-fisted romance subplot.
The special effects are passable at best, with any seasoned moviegoer able to spot the miniature and green screen work from a mile away, especially when the shruggable CGI is in the foreground. The cinematography is intentionally foggy, which seems to have been employed to hide some of this, under the guise of creating atmosphere. The sweeping musical score, which is loudly present throughout Seventh Son, is the only aspect of this movie that feels epic.
The performances don’t help either. Ben Barnes tries his damnedest to be a smoldering, franchise star here and comes off as nothing more than the main character in a soap opera melodrama set in knight times. Julianne Moore phones it in more than I’ve ever seen her in a role, collecting a paycheck for memorizing some lines and saying them menacingly. Jeff Bridges at least makes a valiant attempt at creating an interesting character: Gregory is a drunk and the last remaining knight of his kind, forlorn about the loss of his murdered wife. But Bridges ends up being the equivalent of Jack Sparrow in a knight’s uniform, a caricature with a unique mustache who speaks like he has marbles in his mouth.
If Guardians of the Galaxy reminded me of how great blockbusters can be, Seventh Son renewed why the blockbuster was in trouble in the first place. Does anyone actually want to see The Princess Bride meetsGhost Busters with a Twilight spit shine? I truly hope not.
Seventh Son opens in Philly area theaters today.