Farmboy [insert name here] is taken as apprentice by battle-mage [insert name here] to fight evil sorceror [insert name here], and along the way falls for <witch/peasant/princess/delete as applicable> [insert name here].
No, it’s not Eragon, it’s worse. We’re in <generic fantasy land> for Hobbit-y swords, spells and spectacular CGI monsters with a top-notch cast.
All completely ruined by Jeff Bridges (Crazy Heart) slurring and mumbling worse than in True Grit with a mouthful of cotton wool.
Ben Barnes (Narnia, Dorian Grey)is the titular Seventh Son, but don’t try to convince me he’s a teenage hero; more Mr Turner than Harry Potter, he spends most of the movie in a hoodie looking confused. He replaces Fit Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones, Spooks), killed off in the prologue, as the titular Spooks Apprentice from which books this is adapted.
It’s a simple enough by-the-numbers plot, with Jeff Bridges’ ‘Spook’ – the witchfinder Gregory – chasing down Julianne Moore’s uber-witch whilst they are beset by her sister (Antje Truaue, Man of Steel) and assorted henchmen, including giant lizard-man Djimon Hounsou (Gladiator, The Island), Brandon Lee’s were-bear, a leopard-woman, and a bloke with four arms who gets skewered in ten seconds by a girl with a bread knife.
Said girl with a bread knife is actress of 2014-15 Alicia Vikander (Ex-Machina, Testament of Youth) looking equally confused, probably because her character has absolutely no personality or colour whatsoever.
Julianne Moore (Mockingjay, A Single Man), unfairly pilloried for her performance in this Chinese-financed fantasy pudding, shows Charlese Theron (Snow White and the Huntsman) how to underplay an evil queen and still steal every scene she’s in, just by being, well, Julianne Moore; a class act in anything she chooses.
Which brings us to the great mill stone of the movie: Jeff Bridges. As the obligatory harsh mentor and mandatory Old Geezer beating up stuntmen/CGI monsters in a display of bravura fighting skills and one-liners, Bridges ‘Spook’ is meant to be the keystone of the whole movie. Time was I’d watch Bridges in anything; go find Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, Starman, or John Huston’s Fat City. He sleepwalked through Tron Legacy. Then pushed the limits in True Grit, then tipped over with the shouty Iron Man villain, and disappeared out of sight with the appalling R.I.P.D.
Seventh Son may be Bridges’ League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, where Connery found there was nothing left in the tank and retired from acting. Maybe Bridges should do the same. Gregory is a grizzled, back-woods, mountain-man, bar-room brawler and as far from Gandalf as you can possibly get; the antidote to wizards and completely unintelligible.
For large chunks of the movie he has to instruct his apprentice, which involves a huge amount of Basil Exposition. Which would be fine if you could actually understand a word he says. Every time he opens his mouth we get a Monty Python pantomime of slurred vowels and no consonants. I know the Chinese backers don’t care about English dialogue, but Bridges has a lot of lines and all of them are completely mangled.
The nadir is Jeff Bridges great end-of-set-piece Bond put-down line, which comes out “Sugar-shade-a-wraggin.”
And that is one of his best. At least in the hideous Season of the Witch you could hear mumbling Nicolas Cage’s every syllable.
As a production-line franchise-opener (it won’t) fantasy behemoth Seventh Son isn’t a terrible movie; in the design and execution it is admirable and slick; a proper movie, not a video game knock off like Dracula Untold, or a teen-soap like City of Bones. The cast do the best they can with the material and the lack-lustre direction they’re given. It’s just that Bridges is so terrible in it, he takes the whole ship down with him. Suddenly we’re pining for Luke Evans. RC
Seventh Son (2015)
Director: Sergey Bodrov
Writers: Joseph Delaney, Matt Greenberg, Charles Leavitt, Aaron Guzikowski, Steven Knight
Genre: Adventure, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Running time: 1 hr. 42 min.
Cast: Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Ben Barnes, Alicia Vikander, Djimon Hounsou, Antje Traue, Olivia Williams
Related: Jack the Giant Slayer (2013)