Dragons, witches, and other fearful creatures prove to bore in director Sergei Bodrov’s first English language film Seventh Son. Based on the popular book series The Wardstone Chronicles, this film is likely to leave fans writhing in their seats. Riding on the coattails of the booming fantasy-epic era with The Hobbit trilogy winding to a close, Seventh Son fails to create any meaningful scope or scale and leaves viewers ultimately with an empty and unfulfilled feeling. Even with stars Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges all decked out, nothing will stop this paper thin adventure from sinking into forgotten obscurity.
As the name would suggest, the story follows Tom Ward (Ben Barnes)—the seventh son of a seventh son—as he is taken under the wing of John Gregory (Bridges), the last of an ancient witch slaying order of knights called the Spooks. In their quest, the duo must destroy Mother Malkin (Moore), the queen of the witches, who has broken free from her century long entrapment. As Malkin assembles her forces, young Ward must learn the ways of the order and find a way to reconcile its brutality with his own nature in time to save the kingdom from the onslaught of darkness.
The whole of the story is very dull, unforgivingly so for a fantasy-epic. Viewers are thrown into the universe with little to no backstory, which would be fine under the veil of an expansive and engrossing world (think Lord of the Rings), but with virtually no substance to begin with, one can say we enter a pretty generic fantasy world, with generic characters who must combat generic awoken evil.
As a result, the stakes in the film never feel real. The outcome is seemingly already known, and the presentation of the film suffers as a result. The progression seems too quick and the fluidity between scenes is frankly terrible. The progression is so rapid here that the audience nevers gets attached to any of the characters. Because of this narrative gung-ho attitude, the cuts in the film are odd, and characters seem to simply teleport around. It is unclear whether this is an effect of magic or the close proximity of everything in the world, but this lack of scope really downplays the severity of the impending doom of Mother Malkin. What world does she wish to destroy and moreover do viewers care as they have seen relatively little of it?
The sets are as cookie cutter as they get, with classics such as “walled city whose walls prove ultimately useless,” “evil mountain dwelling, peaceful agrarian village,” and “dramatically placed waterfall.” Though these did not have to scream originality, there was nothing to set this world apart from any other 13-year-old’s fantasy.
The cast appeared to give it their all in the roles and it would seem that the fault of the film lied not in the performances, but the writing. Bridges had the best performance, embodying the character well, even sporting a mush-mouth drawl throughout the duration of the film. That being said, Bridges also suffered from the film’s lack of depth, and aside from a few humorous one-liners, he ultimately fell into his flat character. As the witch queen, Moore felt out of place and seemed to be uncomfortable in the role. The character was fairly sterile, likely adding to the overall feeling of impotence in the film. Kit Harington, in the short time he was in the film, looks as if he stepped freshly off the Game of Thrones set and somehow stumbled in the middle of this mess. The rest of the cast, namely Ben Barnes, best known for his portrayal of Prince Caspian in The Chronicles of Narnia, and Alicia Vikander, of 2015’s Ex Machina, have proven themselves to be accomplished actors, which would lead one to believe that the weight of this flop lies not on their shoulders, but on that of the writing staff.
Seventh Son plays off the vestiges of the greats before it does an injustice to the immense talent of its cast and quality of its source material.
Featured Image Courtesy of Legendary Pictures