SEVENTH SON review by Rahul Vedantam – this fantasy is heavy on effects, light on impact

SEVENTH SON review by Rahul Vedantam – this fantasy is heavy on effects, light on impact

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SEVENTH SON is an epic fantasy flick… that description may be broad and uninspired, but that’s the most the film ever pretends to be. Despite the rich world developed in the book series by Joseph Delaney, the film keeps little more than character names (not even the characters themselves, as evidenced by one of the main villains being turned into the trusted and loyal third member of our heroes) and sets them on a simplistic fight against a dark evil. The special effects and actions sequences see the money, and often that’s enough to make them entertaining, but director Segei Bordov does nothing to stop the rest of the film from falling into trope and cliché. The big names of Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, and Kit Harrington can’t propel the film when Ben Barnes is actively trying to be as bland as possible. SEVENTH SON isn’t bad, but if you’ve ever seen the hero’s journey, then you’ve seen the instructions on this production’s coloring book.

The story follows Tom (Ben Barnes), a simple farm boy who yearns for something more, as he gets sold into an apprenticeship with a mysterious Spook by the name of Gregory (Jeff Bridges). The Spook, having recently lost his old apprentice (Harrington) in the reawakening of the evil witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Morre), must teach everything to Tom in a week before the blood moon gives the witch the power to ruin the world.

There is also a witch named Alice (Alicia Vikander) who, as Tom’s Romeo and Juliet-esque love interest, must question her loyalty toward the witches. Mother Malkin’s board of evildoers, while getting an interesting special effects introduction, serve little purpose and are defeated handily given the small 103 minutes the film has to solve its problems. They create enough special effect obstacles for the hero’s journey to successfully play out and for the montages to kick in.

Bridges easily has the most to work with as the Spook, being an unconventional drunkard of a teacher, and surprisingly unemotional toward his apprentices. It’s not a new character for fans of Eragon, but it’s something of a change from the by-the-numbers path the rest of the film takes. Put together with his motivation and back story and he becomes a full blown character! The same cannot be said for Barnes or Vikander. Their relationship is described as pure love by their second scene together. Barnes has trouble delivering any romantic lines, but really the same can be said for all his lines. In fairness, I doubt any young actor could deliver “I didn’t choose this life, it chose me” straight.

There is not much acting to judge to judge on the villain side, as the characters are in CGI form most of the time. The special effects are the star of the film, and in 3D and IMAX credit has to be given where credit is due. Marco Beltrami’s score blasts over the film distractingly (at least in IMAX) but is nevertheless appropriately bland and stock. Overall SEVENTH SON doesn’t do anything inherently wrong, but when you’ve got million dollar oil paints, it’s disappointing to come out with just a stick figure.

SEVENTH SON opens February 6, 2015

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