Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Unfantastic Fantasy: Why The Seventh Son Flops!

The Good: Creature design, Moments when the cast lives up
The Bad: Terrible acting, Dull story, Obvious character arcs
The Basics: The Seventh Son creates a fantasy realm where witches are hunted and good actors give lousy performances!

It seems that there is far less of a stigma these days against genre films. I’m glad for that; it helps to raise the bar of acting in genre works. Unfortunately, talent is not always used that way; since Emma Thompson, Jeremy Irons and Emmy Rossum appeared in the terrible Beautiful Creatures (reviewed here!), it has been painfully clear that some studios are hedging their bets on their weaker properties by using higher caliber actors, as opposed to investing in stories, writers, and directors that can fix problems before the project is ever cast. The enthusiasm I had for seeing Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges together again – they were wonderful together in The Big Lebowski (reviewed here!) – quickly faded as The Seventh Son went on.

Sadly, the longer The Seventh Son goes on, the more blasé the film appears. Moore and Daniels are window dressing for a sub-par hero story where there are no real surprises and no genuine hook. In fact, the caliber of the two main, established, performers (and Djimon Hounsou) is truly all that saves The Seventh Son from being a complete lemon.

With the rise of the Blood Moon, the dragon form of Mother Malkin becomes more powerful and manages to break out of her confinement. In a nearby village, at the tavern, Billy Bradley tries to get Master Gregory to come to the aid of a possessed girl. After a local pushes the issue and the ancient Master puts the man in his place and accompanies Bradley to the girl. Exorcising Malkin from the girl, Malkin regains her serpent form and takes possession of Bradley to free herself (and his demise). Nearby, Tom Ward is plagued by visions while slopping the pigs and soon he is visited by Master Gregory. Gregory believes that Ward is the next protector or the realm, as he is the seventh son of the seventh son. So, buying Tom from his family to become his apprentice, Gregory takes Tom Ward away to train before the Blood Moon rises and the local witches, led by Malkin, reach their full power.

Ward inadvertently rescues a young woman, accused of being a witch, who actually is a witch. When the most dangerous assassin of Malkin’s, Urag, pops back up (he’s something like a werebear originally), Master Gregory gets worried and he sees that Ward is less willing to kill witches than he would hope. But as Malkin begins exerting her dark influence over the realm, Ward and his romantic interest see the disastrous potential of her coming to rule and they work to stop her.

The Seventh Son is a hard sell from the get go. A few years back the Underworld franchise did the whole “Supernatural Romeo And Juliet” thing pretty well with Underworld: Rise Of The Lycans (reviewed here!), so the whole “romantic” subplot in The Seventh Son falls pretty flat. The Seventh Son has a more fantastic world, filled with more varies supernatural and undead creatures than Underworld, but there is also a significantly lower sizzle factor in The Seventh Son; the character relationships are far less compelling and genuine. Perhaps the backstory between Gregory and Mother Malkin would be more potent if it were shown at the film’s outset, instead of growled to the audience as Obvious Expository Backstory midway through the movie.

On the acting front, Julianne Moore does fine as the villainous Mother Malkin, though her character’s motivations are never convincingly realized. She is something of a villain for the sake of a villain and that is not something Moore has a lot of room to play around with. Jeff Bridges growls through all of his lines in a way that makes his character from R.I.P.D. (reviewed here!) seem like a great orator. Ben Barnes as stiff at Tom Ward and he seems the least comfortable, on screen, working with digital characters and settings, which is odd because he has worked in other special-effects driven films before. His on-screen romantic interest has very little chemistry with him.

The special effects are generally good; the creature design is interesting and there is a sense in watching the film that there is a very magical world being presented. But the state of the setting it not nearly enough to sell the mundane story and characters the viewer never truly connects with. The result is a pretty typical February Flop in the form of The Seventh Son.

For other films currently in theaters, please check out my reviews of:
To Write Love On Her Arms
The Last Five Years
The Voices
Love, Rosie
Song One
Project Almanac
American Sniper
Inherent Vice
Still Alice
The Imitation Game


For other movie reviews, please check out my Film Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2015 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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