Seventh Son (2014)

 

Reviewer: Charity Bishop

 

Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) does not have a good track record with apprentices. His last one, an eager and intelligent young lad, literally went up in flames inside a cage while trying to kill the witch queen, Mother Malkin (Julienne Moore). Though annoyed and maybe even upset, Gregory counted it as a loss and went back to his Spook activities... namely, dealing with and dispatching the forces of darkness, in exchange for a decent pint and a bag of cold coins. Unfortunately, witches are overrunning the land, and he needs a new apprentice to help him deal with Mother Malkin before the blood moon rises.

 

Thus, young Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) enters the story, the seventh son of a seventh son, foretold to have super strength... but he can't quite seem to pass muster. His knife throws are inconsistent, despite years of practice, and he never listens to Gregory's advice. He has no interest in taking notes, much less killing anything. And he also has a soft spot for Alice (Alicia Vikander), a half-witch sent by Mother Malkin to keep an eye on her mortal enemies.

 

Naturally, there's more to this story than any of them realize...

 

Where did this film go wrong? It's based on a best-selling young adult book series, it has a great cast (albeit, a lot of them unknowns in the international market), terrific special effects, an enormous budget, and a decent storyline, so by all rights it should have been a huge success. It's a rabble-rousing two hours of pure entertainment that puts a unique spin on the idea of witches (these are shape-shifters, each with a lethal animal form, ranging from giant bears to jaguars and dragons). Though at times predictable, it's a lot of fun... and yet, something is a little bit off. The revelation that comes in the second half maybe should have been more central to the plot. More character development for the secondary figures might have helped, or even some hints as to the meanings of certain things ("what is a boggart?" Tom asks, and we later find out, but we are not given the answers to a lot of things).

 

I have not yet read the books, but this film makes me want to; the world has immense potential that I'm sure the author fully exploits, but it's possible that it offended book fans by being so radically different from the source material. In the books, Tom is twelve years old, not a brooding young adult who tumbles into bed with Alice on a whim. And perhaps that is what the story lacks; more of a human connection. These characters are memorable but so much of the plot is devoted to action that there is no real time for development or for us to see the strong bonds they form with each other. That is often the case with wannabe blockbusters, but if you don't have time to develop real on-screen relationships, you have to have dynamic personalities in play, such strongly written figures that they become unforgettable. This doesn't, and it's a shame, because while it's tremendous fun to watch, it could have been so much more.

 

     
Sexual Content:
An unmarried couple kiss and wake up beside one another in bed; a woman swims naked in the moonlight but we see nothing but her shoulders; some cleavage in corsets.
 
Language:
None.
 
Violence:
Fight scenes against dragons and witches turn violent, with many casualties; explosions kill people, witches cut through bystanders with knives and fire; witches are set on fire and burn into ash; giant creatures pummel the heroes and smash them into rocks, throw them over cliffs, etc.

 
Other:
Tons of magic, ranging from silver reducing witches to their human form to shape-shifting. A mention is made of reading Tarot cards.