January 8, 2014
Set in medieval times in Europe somewhere, "Seventh Son" brings us back to a time when supernatural beings like witches, ghosts, ghasts and the like wreaked otherworldly terror on the countryside. The people depended on a special knight called the "Spook" to fight these creatures and restore peace in the land.
Master Gregory is the last living Spook and he is getting on in age. In his last big fight with the grand witch Mother Malkin, he lost his apprentice Billy. Gregory calls on Tom Ward, another "seventh son of a seventh son," to take his place before Mother Malkin totally regains her powers by the night of the full blood moon. Will Tom be up to the task of becoming the new Spook? Or will pretty lass Alice distract Tom from his destiny?
Ben Barnes plays Tom Ward. Barnes first gained attention as Prince Caspian in the Narnia films, though his career did not really fly too much after that. He takes another stab at stardom with yet another action fantasy with this one. Already an adult man, Barnes was already too old for the teen character he is supposed to play. Anyhow, while he did still have a youthful handsome mien, his screen charisma seems strangely wan.
Jeff Bridges plays Master Gregory. He is at his hammy best here -- all drunk, curmudgeonly and slurred. This is already his third film IN A ROW playing an old master training an heir-apparent to his position. Bridges felt like he just reprised his roles in "RIPD" and "The Giver" from the past two years. I liked his witty zingers during the training sessions which added humor to the proceedings.
Julianne Moore goes all campy playing Mother Malkin with evil relish and glee. She seemed to be having a field day with this over-the-top character, much unlike the more serious and quiet ones she is more known for. In addition, she and her coven of powerful witches (played by Antje Traue, Djimon Hounsou, Jason Scott Lee, among others) get to wear more elaborate witchy-chic costumes than Maleficent. They also get to transform into dragons and similarly fantastic beasts, thanks to some neat and nifty computer-generated special effects.
This film is based on the young adult novel "The Spook's Apprentice" written by Joseph Delaney, the first of many in a series. Unlike the atmospheric and creepy book it was based on, the film is makes it more of an exciting action fantasy for cinematic verve. Tom and Alice in the book are both pre-teens, but older here (like what they did for "Percy Jackson"). The witch characters did not fit their descriptions in the book as well. They did not turn into animals in the book, for one. In fact, one of the side characters, the deformed humanoid Tusk, even shifts over from evil in the book to good in the film.
"Seventh Son" is alright as an action fantasy film for younger teen audiences. The visual effects were uneven, hit and miss. Some (like the shape-shifting) could be impressive and seamless, but some (like the conflagrations) looked old-fashioned and garishly fake. Book fans may be disappointed by the major deviations from the original tale. Those who are unfamiliar with the book though will be entertained, but will definitely feel that the story being told by director Sergey Bodrov follows a familiar and very tired formula. 6/10.