alicia vikander, ben barnes, fantasy, film review, jeff bridges, julianne moore, kit harington, ladyofletters34, master gregory, mother malkin, olivia williams, sergei bodrov, seventh son, the spooks apprentice
As if Jupiter Ascending wasn’t enough, I bring you the other big budget flop to grace the post-Oscar, pre-Easter backwater of film releases (otherwise known as “the graveyard of buried hopes”). This film was out of cinemas almost as soon as it arrived because, as it transpires, no one wanted to watch a reheated hash of every fantasy cliché you’ve already seen. And, really, who can blame them? I didn’t much want to either, but if there’s one thing that gets me to the cinema faster than you can say “hot potato pie”, it’s Ben Barnes.
Anyway, what I found in the Seventh Son was a tired, unimaginative and plodding story about some farm boy who discovers that he is actually (…wait for it…) The Chosen One. What a shockingly unexpected plot twist that was. Tom (Ben Barnes) becomes the apprentice of a spook named Gregory (Jeff Bridges), and the two are tasked with defeating the evil witch Malkin (Julianne Moore).
Tom rescues a sexy waif Alice (Alicia Vikander) who is suspected of being a witch by a group of angry townspeople, even though he knows nothing about her. And it turns out that she actually is a witch working for Malkin, so perhaps it would have been better to leave those angry townspeople to it. Apparently the power of boners is stronger for Tom than common sense. Luckily for Tom the Generic Farmboy and Master Gregory, Alice realises that she is Tom’s Forced Romantic Interest (FRI for short). This means she had better stop trying to kill them so that she can spend her time more wisely doing things like frolicking with Tom on the beach and…stuff. Alice realises that Tom is just too pretty to die (isn’t he just) so she had better abandon the evil witches and help the Good White Men instead. Plus Mother Malkin has these weird claw things so…down with the matriarchy!
Ben Barnes tries to play his role straight and ends up mostly disappearing behind the special effects and sword fighting (though considering what a flop this film is, he’ll probably be glad that few people will remember that he was actually in it). I have no idea what Jeff Bridges was trying to do (apart from pick up a pay cheque), but he delivers all his lines like he has a mouthful of pebbles. Perhaps he was actually just drunk – that would also make sense.
Oscar-winning Julianne Moore doesn’t embarrass herself too much as Malkin (her performance, thankfully, isn’t comparable with Eddie Redmayne in Jupiter Ascending). She isn’t even gloriously hammy, which is a shame when you think of all the other great evil witch performances we have (Meryl Streep in Into the Woods, Michelle Pfeiffer in Stardust, the Evil Queen in Snow White and the Seven Dwarves – though granted she is a cartoon character). The filmmakers would like you to know that she’s Very, Very Evil and Scary. We can tell this, apparently, because she wears dresses which show off her cleavage a lot. Alicia Vikander is miscast as the smexy and morally ambiguous witch-babe-wench Alice, but tries gamefully to create sexual tension with her turgid and at times painful dialogue.
I seriously doubt that this film is going to hinder her practically meteoric rise to stardom though, so not to worry
At least this film has a vaguely coherent story, which is more than can be said for some films. There’s some semi-nice special effects, location and production design, but in all honesty these don’t make the film worth it. Unless you’re a die-hard fan of bad 80s fantasy or want to see lots of good actors embarrassing themselves, I’d probably say give this one a miss. It doesn’t even have the good sense to be hilariously awful, it’s just very boring, paint-by-numbers fantasy fare.
Watch my review of Cinderella (2015) and Ever After: A Cinderella Story (1998) here.
Read my review of Serena (2014) here.