SEVENTH SON

PrintE-mail Written by Iain McNally

MOVIE REVIEW: SEVENTH SON / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: SERGEY BODROV / SCREENPLAY: CHARLES LEAVITT, STEVEN KNIGHT / STARRING: JULIANNE MOORE, JEFF BRIDGES, BEN BARNES, ALICIA VIKANDER, DJIMON HOUNSOU, OLIVIA WILLIAMS, ANTJE TRAUE / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW

In a strange medieval world where witches can turn into dreadlocked dragons, (not a spoiler, it happens in the film's early moments) and are kept in check by "Spooks" - an order of seventh sons of seventh sons, supposedly gifted with great strength and an almost scientific method of combating magic - the one thing that's the most hard to believe is that anyone can understand Jeff Bridge's Gregory when he speaks! Bridges riffs his Rooster Cockburn character from True Grit but with a cod-English accent, growling and snarling his lines as if his mouth were filled with a whole quarry of pebbles.

Forced to find a new apprentice by the reappearance of Julianne Moore's Mother Malkin, Queen of the witches, Gregory seeks out and buys Ben Barnes' Tom Ward from his supposedly loving family and sets about preparing him to assist in confronting Malkin. Gregory needs the help as the Blood Moon is rapidly approaching, when her powers will be at their peak and she will wreak terrible vengeance on mankind for the persecution of her people. Along the way young Tom will need to learn about the world of witches, "ghasts" and the appropriate herb or potion to combat them, encounter a young half-witch and decide for himself if the only good witch is a dead witch.

The weird introduction of a hint of slavery into this fantasy story and its subsequent avoidance is only one of the many puzzling decisions made by the filmmakers. Bridges' accent is another, no one else talks like him in the film and the actual "science" used in combating witches, which seems to mostly consist of throwing silver at them, which could have been an interesting hook for the film, remains underdeveloped. Tom learns the ropes of being a "Spook" somewhat reluctantly, despite yearning for adventure at the tale's beginning, and it's only after an encounter with a CGI Boggart that he has an unearned change of heart to embrace his destiny. Gregory, too, prefers to capture not kill his quarry right up until the moment he decides that he now prefers to kill.

While the film takes its inspiration from Joseph Delany's The Spook’s Apprentice book, a cursory glance at the book's Wikipedia page reveals that much has been changed, including changing one of Malkin's henchmen into a slightly comedic sidekick of the Spook for no real purpose except to show that some monsters are okay, except for the ones that aren't?

You can understand why the filmmakers changed the title too, as while the honorific of "Spook" may work on the printed page, it becomes somewhat ridiculous once uttered a few dozen times by the cast.

The film also features a hugely distracting production design with a mishmash of cultures and styles thrown into the mix intentionally, according to production designer Dante Ferretti, but that comes off as looking like someone just randomly raided the costume closet. This visually off-putting smorgasbord also applies to the locations, with the Spook's house in lush wooded lake land apparently only a bell's peal from a walled city in a desert landscape that looks like something straight out of John Carter.

Bridges and Moore have some fun in their roles, Moore slinking about it up in a succession of taloned, spined evening wear, but an almost complete lack of much needed humour prevents the audience having the same enjoyment, although God of War fans may get a kick out of seeing Djimon Hounsou throwing around a set of chained blades similar to Kratos' signature weaponry.

Expected Rating: 6 out of 10

Actual Rating:
 

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