In a movie as studiously bad as Seventh Son, it can be hard to pick out precisely the right opening anecdote. Nonetheless, the diligent critic will try, and shares this moment which is perhaps more subtle in revealing the lazy idiocy of Seventh Son. Shortly after their incoherent flirting leads to sex so PG-13 it’s entirely off-screen, Our Hero Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) intones to his half-witch paramour (Alicia Vikander) yet more dialogue so canned you’d half-expect to find it in survivalist’s bunker: he wants to take her somewhere far away from where present problems can find them. At that moment, we don’t know where they are, where that would be, or where any of this is happening. Indeed we don’t know how any of it relates to anywhere else, spatially, geographically, temporally, politically, economically, culturally. Seventh Son isn’t even two-dimensional, as that would imply that, though it lacks depth, at least it has width.
We begin with a perfunctory demonstration of John Gregory (Jeff Bridges) as the last Spook, a deeply unfortunate name for the order of supernatural bad guy fighters that provide inadequate protection for this High Middle Ages-ish society he inhabits. The greatest evil of all, a witch named Malkin (Julianne Moore), has escaped from her imprisonment and slain his apprentice (Kit Harrington) so he needs to recruit a new one, because (he only has one week to destroy a whole lotta evil so he needs a useless tagalong, duh).
Nothing in this movie makes any sense. The magic has neither logic nor mystery: it’s full of stuff to justify the budget and hurtle the plot toward lukewarm and overdetermined checklist. Every scene raises question: not about the world in which the characters live, but what director Sergey Bodrov could have been thinking:
- Where were all of Malkin’s henchman for the last hundred years while she was imprisoned?
- Wait, so Tom’s mother is a witch and that somehow doesn’t have, like, a zillion implications?
- Why does the transitive property not hold in this universe?
- Why does Gregory keep an insane killer death knight just lying around his house?
The film is so laughably incoherent that it has little interest to explore the protestations of the evil witches, who suggest they’re maybe they’re good and persecuted.
Seventh Son is 100% lean finely textured plot, so breathlessly racing through so many narrative checkpoints that it never gives itself a chance to establish anything resembling atmosphere. Bodrov shovels enough money into every frame to justify its budget – the 3-D IMAX presentation is like applying a cheese grater to the forehead – Seventh Son forgot to be written. Either that, or nobody cared. The scenes stolen from Star Wars are bad; the other scenes are also bad.
In the face of vast and inexplicable horror, Seventh Son is a movie that celebrates “badassery” that’s mostly about hitting people, which is reassuring; if my house is ever haunted, I’ll just call my local martial arts dojo. It’s a movie where the physical damage required to destroy or incapacitate a human being is in direct proportion to the paycheck received by the actor playing said human. It’s a movie where alcoholism has no consequences, just like everything else, up to and including the mass slaughter of civilians and the death of family.
Everyone is miscast. Jeff Bridges has no idea what he’s doing, and it shows, because he’s almost incoherent. Swapping Ben Barnes and Kit Harrington would have made our protagonist at least marginally more interesting, maybe. Julianne Moore, contrary to the promotional materials, does not actually appear in this film; instead, a CGI model of her stalks around hissing at the other actors who couldn’t wriggle out of showing up on set. To be fair, she’s the least-objectionable special effect, as the others have all the weight and dramatic tactility computers playing Pong. By the time it dawns on you how racist, sexist, misogynistic, xenophobic, and ablest the movie is, you’ll be actually grateful since it proves you’re still capable of forming critical thought.
Reviewing this particular taxon of tripe is depressing work. Seventh Son is Joseph Campbell copypasta by way of TV Tropes, dressed up like Dragonheart and glued together with money and desperate rent-seeking. My hope is that it’s a kind of satire, that somebody read Mallory Ortberg’s “How To Tell If You Are In A High Fantasy Novel” and thought making that movie would be a good prank. In reality, it’s a purely cynical contraption, a pyramid scheme in which producers pay creatives to add legitimacy to their YA book rights and hope enough #teens are going to show up, since it might as well be their crap as opposed to the other studio’s crap. That makes it largely review-proof, a squatter pushed around on the calendar until it found a window of dulled competition where it could do just well enough that the suit responsible for it could keep his job. The thing that grates, then saddens, about Seventh Son isn’t that it’s bad; it’s that it nobody involved in making it ever even cared about making something good.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OmgMjiV9awM