DVD Release Date: May 26, 2015
Theatrical Release Date: February 6, 2015
Rating: PG-13 (for intense fantasy violence and action throughout, frightening images and brief strong language)
Run Time: 102 min.
Director: Sergey Bodrov
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Ben Barnes, Djimon Hounsou, Kit Harington, Alicia Vikander, Olivia Williams
Seventh Son must have sounded appealing to the cast members who signed on for the film, which, after an extremely long delay, finally released February 6, 2015. Oscar winner Jeff Bridges stars as Gregory, a self-identified Spook who works to contain evil spirits. His chief nemesis, Mother Malkin, is played by Oscar nominee (and likely Oscar winner this year for Still Alice) Julianne Moore. And twice-nominated Oscar contender Djimon Hounsou plays another of the film’s villains.
What was the appeal? What drew that caliber of talent to a project like Seventh Son? Was it the possibility of a new franchise based on a series of young-adult books authored by Joseph Delaney? If so, the actors shouldn't hold their breath for any sequels. Seventh Son, which has been sitting on the shelf for two years while post-production work was completed and the film changed distributors, isn't strong enough to justify this initial chapter, much less any future installments.
That's not to say that Seventh Son is unbearable. No, its star turn from Bridges is a clear highlight, another example (see: R.I.P.D.) of how that great actor can bring a consistently surprising freshness to the most tired scenarios. Bridges's deadpan humor, just-right squint and occasional raised eyebrow might not make for great acting, but they sure are a lot of fun, especially in contrast to the dour proceedings that surround them.
Bridges plays Master Gregory, a warrior trained to take on witches and other creatures. Chief among those is Mother Malkin (Moore, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay, Part 1), with whom Gregory shares a long, checkered history. She's a witch, and the story opens with a younger Gregory imprisoning her for what he thought would be a very long time.
No dice. A once-in-a-blue-moon Blood Moon gives Mother Malkin new power, allowing her to break free from the prison. Soon she's possessing a young girl, and it takes a visit by Gregory to set the girl free. Not that Mother Malkin is grateful, mind you. No, she's angrier at Gregory than ever, and is determined to haunt him forever.
Gregory is not alone in his battle against Mother Malkin, having enlisted Tom Ward (Ben Barnes, The Big Wedding)—the seventh son of the title—to be his witch-killing apprentice. The trouble is that Tom would rather romance one of the witches (Alicia Vikander, Ex Machina), even though she may have ulterior motives for cozying up to Tom.
There's very little that happens in Seventh Son that strays from the formula for this sort of film. Special effects abound, and the climax revolves around a long-delayed, let's-have-it-out confrontation between Gregory and Mother Malkin. Less predictable is how perfunctory, and how abbreviated, that finale plays. Whereas most big-budget spectacle films draw out their final confrontations, Seventh Son resolves so quickly that you're left to wonder what may have been removed from the original cut of the film, and why.
The story's denouement is similarly quick, as if the filmmakers knew, even as they were shooting, that the film wasn't working and couldn't be salvaged. So they threw in the towel on Seventh Son, and on the possibility of future chapters in Delaney's series.
There's too much talent involved with Seventh Son for it to be an excruciating sit, but there's also nothing in it good enough—not even Bridges's performance—to recommend the film. It's just the same old story, with nothing around the edges to distinguish it from any number of similar fantasy films. This Son is the black sheep of the fantasy family.
CAUTIONS (may contain spoilers):
- Language/Profanity: The f-word; what the hell; dam-it
- Drinking/Smoking/Drugs: A pub scene; Gregory drinks from a flask, as does Tom at what point
- Sex/Nudity: A woman bathes, but nothing is seen; scene of urination
- Violence/Crime: A dragon flies another character into a wall; a woman’s face has been burned by a Spook; fights with swords and knives; creatures die and catch fire; a man brands another man’s hand
- Marriage: Kissing; a couple lays in bed
- Religion/Morality: A character says “hell awakens” with Mother Malkin’s wrath; a young girl is possessed; Mother Malkin says Gregory’s heart is blacker than hers; Thomas has visions of the future; Mother Malkin appears to heal a disfigured witch; a character can read fortunes; ghosts and skeletons, as well as witches, figure prominently; a witch says not all witches are evil and that some are good
Publication date: February 5, 2015