Here’s the thing. I’m a sucker for fantasy movies. Dragons and swordfights and magical artifacts, all that jazz. But I also know that a majority of fantasy movies end up horrible. It takes a certain skillset to make it come alive on-screen in a way that doesn’t alienate the viewers. The first time I heard about Seventh Son was in the context that it may never be released. They struggled to film the movie, after Jennifer Lawrence dropped out, and then it sounds like it was costing so much money in post-production that they were debating even finishing the movie at all.
Well, here it is. Is Seventh Son one of the lucky fantasy movies that turned out okay? Or is it just another victim of the curse?
Ben Barnes (Chronicles of Narnia) stars as a farmer in a small village, until the mysterious knight Gregory (Jeff Bridges) arrives in town to recruit him as an apprentice. See, Gregory is what’s called a “spook,” which are knights specifically trained to fight monsters and dark evil things. He’s actually the last one alive, so he must recruit and train a new spook to help fight an upcoming threat. This threat is a witch named Malkin (Julianne Moore) who has recently escaped from her prison and is now gathering her lieutenants for war.
What we want from this movie is monsters and cool fights. And do we get that? Yes. This movie plays out in a very predictable/traditional way. The witch Malkin brings her lieutenants together who all basically take turns trying to defeat the knight Gregory and his apprentice. These characters are all interesting, though superficial. Some get some decent screentime, like Djimon Hounsou who is the leader of assassins and can turn into a dragon. Others don’t get any dialogue at all, including one who turns into a leopard and another that is “a warlock” but is defeated without any spectacle. Mostly though, these are cool ideas. My favorite was “the king of swords” (or something) Virahadra, who was a four-armed sword-wielding warrior reminiscent of Hindu gods.
Aside from these lieutenants, we also got some pretty cool monsters. The effects are generally decent here, which is a bonus.
In terms of the cast, Ben Barnes is always charismatic and likeable. And while Julianne Moore is kind of a ridiculous villain, you can tell she had a lot of fun doing it.
What doesn’t work?
While Barnes and Moore were decent, the other cast members couldn’t hold their own against these big action pieces. The girl who replaced Jennifer Lawrence (Alicia Vikander) is as boring as a box of rocks.
And then Jeff Bridges. For some reason, someone decided it’d be a good idea to give him some sort of speech impediment that makes it nearly impossible to make out what he’s talking about. And when he’s trying to define magical amulets and what certain monsters are capable of, you can’t tell what is meant to be gibberish and what is just inaudible. And even if he spoke clearly, Bridges didn’t really buy into this performance, so it makes it hard to care about this guy.
Remember how I said there were cool monsters and villains? This movie had a case of Pacific Rim when it started killing off these lieutenants without giving them a moment to shine. Some really cool villains were defeated before getting to really do anything. It had a thousand missed opportunities that I wish someone had spoken up about.
“Missed opportunities” is the key word here. There were some interesting monsters but often the payoff wasn’t worth it. The plot was predictable and cliche and Ben Barnes tried his hardest to be charismatic enough for both himself and Jeff Bridges, whose incoherent ramblings slowed the movie down. The action is fun and the effects are surprisingly good, but it’s not enough to make this movie a solid entry into the fantasy genre.