Medieval stories are filled with magic and monsters that only the most noble of men can defeat. Knights, legacies and/or those with a pure heart are called upon to fight the evil that haunts a land and — because as G.K. Chesterton said, “… Fairy tales tell children that dragons can be killed,” — they are almost always triumphant. This is the world in which Seventh Son exists.
Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) is a knight, but he’s better known as a “Spook” — a man who eradicates evil with a skill honed over many years. In order to pass on his knowledge, he takes on an apprentice chosen by fate since he must be the seventh son of a seventh son. His latest student, Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), is probably one of the least competent he’s had given his poor combat skills, and trouble taking orders or following rules. Nonetheless, the two must combine their energies to challenge the queen witch, Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), and her magical army before the rise of the full blood moon.
While there is no shortage of cool and competent roles for older actors, it would seem many aging women are being pigeonholed as Hollywood’s evil witches. Into the Woods, Maleficent, Snow White and the Huntsman, Enchanted and now this movie are just some of the more prominent examples of this trend. Moore is exceptionally wicked in the part, but questions remain about the type of characters being written for women in comparison to men when the consistent contrast is valiant hero and ugly sorceress.
That said, even though Bridges has the less disagreeable role, what he does with it is entirely questionable. Speaking as if he has cotton balls stuffed in his mouth, his words are often muffled and difficult to understand; an impediment reminiscent of his R.I.P.D. speech pattern and is looking more like something he adopts when in the position of mentoring a much younger character. Generally buried under scraggily facial hair and an oversized cloak, it’s amazing anything about his character is at all discernible.
The script pattern is very predictable as it introduces a new monster to combat at each prescribed action beat. In addition, many elements of the picture will seem familiar to those who have seen Lord of the Rings, Game of Thrones, DragonHeart and other fantasy narratives; it even goes as far as to borrow a trick from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. At one point Tom wishes he had been the sixth son and he may not be the only one. Filmmakers make the mistake of assuming viewers are only attracted to the existence of monsters in these tales, when it’s the incredible stories that keep them engaged the whole way through. Not much of this movie is original or particularly creative, making it a striking spectacle in IMAX that only feeds your eyes and not your mind.