‘Seventh Son’ (Film Review)


There’s a prevailing sense among many armchair critics and internet commenters that a movie—or really, anything—needs to be wholly original in order to be considered a valid entry into the world of art or entertainment. This isn’t necessarily a bad stance to take; as moviegoers, it’s nice to see things we’ve never seen before. Indeed, a world of constant retreads and rip-offs would quickly become boring. However, it’s also worth noting that narrative and story have been around for as long as we have. As a result, to fully expect every narrative to be wholly original might, in fact, be too tall an order.

This might be an unpopular opinion, but something I feel that has been forgotten in this day of story-telling snobbery is that sometimes a movie is just a movie. Sometimes—particularly in February, which has long been the dumping ground for movies that studios otherwise have no idea what to do with—all we really need from a movie is mindless escapism. I’m not sure that this is a bad thing.

Seventh Son, the latest in the ever-expanding realm of fantasy hack and slash adventure stories, is about as mindless as you can get out of a movie. It’s a predictable and familiar romp that does nothing you haven’t seen done better a thousand times before in a thousand different movies. And yet, try as I might to turn up my nose and scoff, I couldn’t help but enjoy myself.

The film follows the adventures of Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) the last of an order of knights sworn to protect humans from supernatural baddies such as demons and witches. Though his order is all but extinct, he carries the traditions forward as best he can. According to lore, only the seventh son of a seventh son has the strength to combat the forces of evil in the world which, undoubtedly, makes it hard for the order to repopulate its numbers. Despite this, Master Gregory finds an apprentice in a young pig farmer, Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) whom he enlists in his quest to rid the world of witch queen Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore).

If it sounds forgettable it’s because it absolutely is. However, what it lacks in originality it makes up for by being unabashedly fun. Seventh Son is one of those movies that walks that thin and nebulous line between completely terrible and kind of good. For watchers with a more discerning eye, who insist on thinking deeply about every movie they see, the descent to unwatchable is swift and unrelenting. The film relies on tropes and well-trod formulae that will make the snob in everyone roll their eyes in disgust.

I was aware of all of this while watching Seventh Son. Despite this—despite myself—I still couldn’t help but enjoy the absolute hell out of it. Part of this is because Bridges and Moore seem to be having the time of their lives in their performances. True, both actors lay on the ham thicker than Easter at Grandma’s, but they look as though they’re absolutely relishing the experience. Master Gregory stumbles and sways his way through the story, full of drunken bravado and cheesy one-liners that, while justifiably groan-worthy to some, aren’t without their charm. Mother Malkin sashays through scenes doing everything but looking directly into the camera and screaming “I’m so evil,” with a malevolent laugh.

Indeed, this is true of all characters in Seventh Son. They are decidedly one-note and ridiculous, as is the overall story. But why overthink it? I could sit here all day and nitpick the movie to death—more so than I already have—but on some level, the film actually kind of works. Evil is faced, dragons are slain, and adventure is had.

Much has been made about the troubled production and release schedule for Seventh Son. Slated for release last year, Universal pushed the release in order to revamp some effects and make it 3D. To that end, it’s glaringly obvious that this was an afterthought. Clearly a move designed to squeeze every last dollar it could out of the movie, it was completely unnecessary and overall distracting. I can’t help but wonder if Universal just had no idea what to do with this movie and how to market it.

Indeed, it’s being marketed as though it were a sweeping epic. I guess it kind of is, but it’ll never be as big as Lord of the Rings no matter how badly the studio seems to want it to be. In all actuality, Seventh Son is a silly romp designed to eat up a couple of hours of your life. I honestly don’t see anything wrong with that. Not everything needs to be serious. Not everything needs to be groundbreaking.

There’s plenty to hate about Seventh Son, and I certainly wouldn’t blame you for pointing that out. However, if you’re the type of moviegoer who is already inclined to enjoy silly fantasy, then there’s also plenty to like. It may be objectively a “bad film” but if you’re capable of shrugging your shoulders and saying “sure, why not” then you might find yourself having a bit of fun.

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