Just when you thought that Jeff Bridges’ on-screen accents couldn’t get any more ridiculous than his rootin-tootin’ cowboy persona in R.I.P.D, Seventh Son comes along with another cartoonish turn from the actor, this time as a medieval Ghostbuster with a mouth full of marbles. Unfortunately, the comparisons to R.I.P.D don’t stop there as far as Bridges’ latest film is concerned, as Seventh Son is another slight blockbuster blunder whose clunkiness reveals why Sergey Bodrov’s fantasy adventure sat shelved for roughly three years. Blame it on unfocused post-3D, unavoidable comparisons to Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters and lax character development – a dangerous trifecta that puts a damper on the unintentional comedy found in the few lines of dialogue Bridges mumbles that are just clear enough to understand.
Seventh Son tells the tale of Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), an apprentice to a famed Spook (monster hunter) named Master Gregory (Bridges). With only a few days until the next Blood Moon, Master Gregory must train his new apprentice before Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) and her team of witches turn the world into a desolate wasteland. Thomas is a bit scrawny for a seventh son of a seventh son – the only people who can become Spooks – but Master Gregory has to make due with what he’s got. Hopefully Tom won’t suffer the same fate as Gregory’s former apprentices who perished before him, because his failure would mean that Mother Malkin’s world domination couldn’t be stopped – destroying Master Gregory’s legacy along with everything else.
Despite being loosely based on Joseph Delaney’s novel The Last Apprentice: Revenge Of The Witch, Seventh Son feels eerily similar to 2013’s Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters – a film that embraces pulpy fun and Renaissance action on a much more enjoyable scale. Maybe that’s why Universal and Legendary pushed Bodrov’s film back two years, because the original release date of February 15th, 2013 would have been only mere weeks after Tommy Wirkola’s twisty fairy-tale opened, and the similarities would have been painstakingly evident.
You’ve got the evil team of witches who all spotlight different powers, the period feel, mirroring fight sequences, and even the loyal-creature-sidekick who follows Master Gregory around, yet Seventh Son seems a bit lazier about each comparison in every way. While Master Gregory’s dickish belittling of his trusted servant Tusk (an ogre-ish beast) is good for a laugh or two, Edward is the more badass witch-fighter of the two lapdogs – only one of the parallels that unfavorably compares the films in Wirkola’s favor.
Bodrov’s release is essentially the I, Frankenstein of 2015, a heavily CGI-ed dreamscape that offers little substance except for a few flashy battles and nasty monsters who attempt to boast creative wonder. I will admit, some of the set design does go over gangbusters between ancient temples and walled kingdoms, but there’s very little excitement to accompany such grandiose sights. Each character makes their way through a story ripe with let’s-leave-room-for-a-sequel cliches, telegraphing few surprises, and the only redeeming factor ends up being Bridges’ bizarrely engrossing turn as a monster-killing caricature who looks a bit like Santa Clause. His accent alone is worth a hearty laugh the first time his mouth opens, but it’s almost as if Master Gregory is in on a joke that none of the other cast members pick up on – like Gregory was ripped from another more audacious film with a much sillier tone.
Julianne Moore dresses up like a hybrid version of Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent and Mister Babadook, which I’m scared to admit is rather attractive, but her villainous arc boils down to crazy ex-girlfriend antics once the final climax shines in the red moonlight. Besides having the power to transform dusty old palaces into lavish domiciles (someone get this chick an HGTV show!), Mother Malkin seems rather useless in the heat of battle. She doesn’t do much during Gregory and Tom’s journey, either, aside from sitting in her shimmery mansion eating blood cakes. Then, when the fight finally comes to her, she flies around like a dragon, takes a nasty hit, and vies to haunt Gregory until the day he dies. Seriously, that’s her finishing move – obsessively stalking Gregory from the grave (there are romantic implications involved, but that’s a bit spoiler-ish). Moore’s talents are wasted on an atrocious female witch queen who finds herself reduced to nothing but a talky figure who can’t execute, which fails to provide any sort of thrilling conclusion worth the previous hour and a half.
There’s nothing in Seventh Son that we haven’t experienced, commented on, or suffered through before, as it lacks an enchanting spirit that might have transfixed hordes of audiences otherwise. This is a film that opens up with the generically-talented Kit Harington, and after his quick exit (much to our pleasure), we then meet the next generic-white-protagonist in Ben Barnes – an actor tasked with more of the same. Bridges is the only one who comes out “unscathed” by a shallow screenplay that even Steven Knight couldn’t save, only because he channels a different energy than those plebeians stuck trying to ground his performance at the same time. Seventh Son is more unbalanced, uninspired Hollywood magic that enjoys being a film with no defining characteristics besides the crazy old lunatic rambling on about drinking alcohol and being a proper Spook – but at least it’s better than R.I.P.D.
Seventh Son is a fantastical adventure we've seen time and time again, filled with animated monsters, vapid characters and a female villain that barely rises above being a crazy ex-girlfriend.