So the deal is, if you’re the seventh son of a seventh son, one day a “spook” a.k.a. dragonslayer evil-spirits-trapper will show up at your door, and you have no choice but to become his apprentice.
Oh, and all the apprentices before you have been killed.
I’m thinking if you’re mom and dad and you’ve got six boys, maybe you seek the counsel of the local wizard in finding whatever birth control they have in these particular times.
That I was musing on such matters while wearing 3-D glasses while experiencing “Seventh Son” on the spectacular IMAX screen at Navy Pier should tell you the movie itself was something less than riveting. Even as a big loud roaring B-movie with no aspirations than to be a cinematic roller coaster ride, “Seventh Son” is second rate.
The pedigrees of many involved in this production are anything but second-tier. Sergei Bodrov has directed two nominees for best foreign language film, and the stars are Academy Award winner Jeff Bridges and this year’s odds-on favorite for best actress, Julianne Moore (together again more than 15 years after “The Big Lebowski”!)
What a week for exceptionally talented possible Oscar winners. On the same day we get Eddie Redmayne affecting a bizarre accent and hamming it up in “Jupiter Ascending,” Julianne Moore sounds and behaves like Maleficent’s older, less complex sister in this stink-o-rama.
“Seventh Son” was originally scheduled for a February 2014 release. Sticking it on the shelf did not improve its bouquet.
Adapted from Joseph Delaney’s “The Wardstone Chronicles” series of fantasy books (retitled “The Last Apprentice” in the U.S.A.), “Seventh Son” seems to be set in the England of the Middle Ages, where there are as many otherworldly creatures as human beings.
Sporting billy-goat facial hair that makes him look like a cross between Don Quixote and an aging Doobie Brother and not even bothering with an accent, Bridges is Master John Gregory. He’s a member of an ancient and noble order of knights who were once 1,000 strong, but all but Master Gregory have died or succumbed to the darkness.
Years ago, Master Gregory had the chance to do away with the evil queen known as Mother Malkin (Moore) but he left her in a cage “for all eternity,” and we all know how it turns out when you leave an evil witch who can turn into a dragon to her own devices.
With the once-in-a-century blood moon drawing nigh, Mother Malkin assembles all the best shape-shifting witches and assorted medieval thugs, including her sister Bony Lizzie (Antje Traue), the imposing Radu (Djimon Hounsou) and a bunch of other weirdly named minions with nifty wardrobe and makeup jobs and not nearly enough screen time to become memorable in any way (just like in “Jupiter Ascending”).
Ben Barnes plays Tom Ward, who’s just workin’ on the farm and dreaming of becoming a warrior when Master Gregory comes to collect his apprentice, according to, I guess the custom or the law of the day? Master Gregory tosses a bag of gold at Pop, and Olivia Williams’ Mam (that’s what they call her) gives her boy a special necklace and says she always knew this day would come.
OK, timeout. Ben Barnes is 33. He looks 33. Isn’t the kid in the books like 12? Casting Barnes in the role of Tom undercuts the whole fantasy aspect of the tale. Of course his folks weren’t all that broken up about him leaving; they should have been thanking Master Gregory for finally getting their disappointment of a son out of the house. (And if Tom is the seventh son of a seventh son, some of his brothers must be 50. And yet Mam is a hot 45ish. What is happening in that house!)
We get the obligatory “Medieval Karate Kid” scenes with Tom learning from the wise and crotchety master, and countless battle sequences in which Master Gregory and Tom face off against CGI creatures. (At times it’s pretty obvious the actors have been told to stare at a certain point because THAT’S where the dragon or the giant will appear.)
Bridges mumbles his lines as if he’s a surfer just finishing a bowl of poi before catching some tasty waves. Moore goes for the classic Wicked Witch accent while the wind blows her hair as if she’s doing a L’Oreal commercial. Nearly every time we get the tease of these two great actors appearing in a scene together, Mother Malkin morphs into a dragon. What a waste of talent.
“Seventh Son” moves at a fairly quick pace and has a sense of humor about itself. That doesn’t mean it’s thrilling, or funny. Just that it’s a quickly forgotten pile of junk.