a critiQal film review Seventh Son (2015)

Plot: In a time long past, an evil is about to be unleashed that will reignite the war between the forces of the supernatural and humankind once more. Master Gregory (Bridges) is a knight who had imprisoned the malevolently powerful witch, Mother Malkin (Moore), centuries ago. But now she has escaped and is seeking vengeance. Now he has only until the next full moon to do what usually takes years: train his new apprentice, Tom Ward (Barnes) to fight a dark magic unlike any other. Man's only hope lies in the seventh son of a seventh son.

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If you’ve been keeping up with the site over the past couple of years (if you have, thanks for that!) you may have noticed the strange history of Seventh Son. Like another recent release (Jupiter Ascending (2015)), Seventh Son kept getting pushed back until we had given up hope of ever seeing the film in theaters. Finally, however, the film rushed into theaters in February, and, several months later, arrived for home viewing.

After watching Jupiter Ascending (2015), however, we approached Seventh Son with a little trepidation. As you know from reading our review of Jupiter Ascending (2015), there was a reason that film was bumped several times – it just wasn’t that good. Would Seventh Son disappoint us as badly, or were the constant changes just a ploy by the movie studio to garner interest in a good film?

Jeff Bridges is quite the versatile actor. Whether he’s popping up in Iron Man (2008), TRON: Legacy (2010) or R.I.P.D. (2013), he manages to give the viewer a show. Sure, he can’t seem to carry a film all by himself, but he’s a pretty consistent high point, and he does seem to be a bit picky about films he does – none of them are really that bad (well, except Blown Away). At first, it seems like he’s made a poor choice with Seventh Son, as he mumbles his way through his introductory scenes. As the film continues, however, his character seems to develop more than expected, mostly thanks to his acting chops than due to anything intentional in the script.

Julianne Moore, who doesn’t seem quite as picky as Bridges when it comes to choosing her roles, shows up as the villain in Seventh Son, and while she’s a decent antagonist, she doesn’t really do much more than portray the stereotypical villain. Sure, the audience will root against her, but more because that’s the expected reaction, not because she does anything to imprint herself as a standout villain.

The real surprise is Ben Barnes, as the typical apprentice figure. After seeing him in Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian (2008), there didn’t seem to be much hope he would have a further movie career, but his second attempt in The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (2010) gave him a fighting chance – and in Seventh Son he shows that second chances wasn’t wasted. He’ll never be one of those sought after actors, but he manages to make his screen time worth it. His love interest in the film, Alicia Vikander, is a good match for Barnes, and the two share a believable tender moment or two.

And that’s not all. There’s a few memorable supporting cast members as well, including Olivia Williams as Barnes’ mom, and Djimon Hounsou as a secondary villain. Both have too little screen time, with Olivia Williams managing to bring much more to her role, surprisingly, than Hounsou does to his. In fact, more Olivia might have been what this film needed to make it better.

The storyline is a bit of a change from the typical good guy/evil witch scenario, as a shared history between the two makes for much more complex entanglements. Unfortunately, this seems to come up a bit late in the film, and doesn’t have the chance to gain as much ground as it needs to make it very important. Other plot twists are similarly unexplored, with viewers expected to understand the plight of the characters without very much (or any) foreshadowing. Sadly, even in those cases, the film makes use of tried-and-true techniques, so there’s no chance of the viewer becoming confused.

With a film like this, the studio can’t skimp on the special effects, and, thankfully for everyone, doesn’t. Whether it’s a transformation from beast to human (and back again) or showcasing flashy magic at work, Seventh Son manages with ease. Maybe it’s just a testament to how good special effects have gotten, but watching a 4-armed villain tackle multiple opponents in a swordfight is light years beyond what Goro was able to accomplish back when Mortal Kombat (1995) hit the screen. It’s worth the wait – and that’s only one of the many impressive special effects sequences.

While Seventh Son is more entertaining than one would expect from it’s beginnings, the film hinges way too much on a tired plot to keep the continuity flowing. This means the film does drag in points, and the viewer will find themselves wanting to skip ahead to next special effects sequence, rather than plodding along with the characters. Thankfully, even during the slow parts, the acting is decent enough to carry the viewer through. Several plot twists are easy to see coming, and the end is never really in doubt, but the acting is decent enough – and the special effects are refreshing enough – to carry the viewer through what turns out to be a decent popcorn flick.

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