Filmed in British Columbia in 2012, originally set to release on February 15, 2013, "Seventh Son" is finally hitting theaters in the U.S. And, after seeing it, we know why it ended up with a February release. It's not the worst movie ever made, for sure, but one does have to wonder how this script ever got approved.
Based on the novel "The Spook's Apprentice" by Joseph Delaney, the screenplay for "Seventh Son" was written by Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight. And, as you must know by now if you read my reviews, it's all about the writing (not the "base " --- sorry, Meghan Trainor).
Starring Jeff Bridges (who looks a thousand years old) as John Gregory, the Spook, and Julianne Moore (what??) as Mother Malkin, the witch Queen, "Seventh Son" also features Ben Barnes as Tom Ward, the seventh son of a seventh son, who becomes Spook's umpteenth apprentice.
His last candidate, Billy Bradley (the totally darling Kit Harington from "Game of Thrones"), was captured by Malkin and slaughtered --- a fate met by Spook's many other apprentices. But Tom is different --- his Mam (mother), played by Olivia Williams, is also a witch, so Tom has special powers. He also attracts the ardor of Alice Deane (Alicia Vikander), a good witch who just happens to be Malkin's niece.
The most puzzling aspect of "Seventh Son" is the screenplay --- and why Moore would choose such a role. Playing Malkin does afford her an opportunity to ham it up a bit --- but seriously, it doesn't make much sense. Though I actually do prefer this character over her presidential one in "Hunger Games". But that's not exactly a solid endorsement.
Bridge's commitment isn't difficult to understand. I'm confident he had a jolly good time making "Seventh Son" since he gets to spout all of the amusing quips, and there are quite a few. Barnes ("The Chronicles of Narnia" series) and Vikander have a certain undeniable chemistry, though their love story is brief.
Nothing in this film is fully developed, which explains the script problems. We are provided a cryptic back story of Gregory and Malkin's history, little background on Tom and his family, and virtually no character development of Alice. We just know she's a witch and her mother is Malkin's sister.
Thusly, we don't really care about any of these spooks or witches, or even the townspeople, etc. "Seventh Son" is another 3-D slosh through medieval times --- a story we could live without. But, at least it's more entertaining than "Jupiter Ascending" --- which isn't saying much.
Opinion: Wait For DVD
At one point in this film, Thomas Ward (Ben Barnes) jokingly wishes aloud that he had been born the sixth son and not the seventh --- and with good reason. As the latest in a long line of apprentices to the local spook, Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) --- essentially the guardian of the area --- Tom squares off against evil monsters, both animal and human, who are intent to do him great bodily harm.
"Seventh Son" is another in the movie genre of heroic figures battling supernatural enemies. Our screening was in 3-D and IMAX, with superb cinematography by Newton Thomas Sigel ("Drive", "X-Men" series). He regales us with unusual shots --- looking straight down a massive cliff in one scene, a perilous waterfall in another, and many aerial views of the landscape. We are also privy to looking through the grate of the evil witch's "prison" (Mother Malkin played with relish by Julianne Moore) with an orange moon in the sky.
The special effects are also exceedingly well done. The morphing of the witches into fearsome dragons, and back again into their human shapes, is not new, however. The scenes are reminiscent of Christopher Lee's transformation from a bat into Count Dracula --- that was over 50 years ago!
Bridges is a bit long in the tooth to be battling nasty villains of the witches' creation, and while his forced accent is a bit grating, he does provide most of the comic relief. Moore seems to really be enjoying her wicked role, although on the heels of her impending Oscar win for "Still Alice", it's a bit hard to focus on her Mother Malkin portrayal.
Barnes ("Chronicles of Narnia") makes for a handsome protagonist opposite his love interest, the half-witch Alice (Alicia Vikander, "Anna Karenina"). Their relationship is the weakest part of the film, strictly a hum-drum affair. The battle scenes are mercifully short --- thank you to director Sergey Bodrov --- which results in a brisk outing at an hour and forty-two minutes.
The use of 3-D and surround sound is among the best I've seen in the past few years and triple Oscar winner Dante Ferretti ("The Aviator", "Hugo") is the genius behind the film's excellent production design.
Opinion: Mild See It Now!