Any potential “Seventh Son” had of being a fun sword and sorcery tale gets watered down by poor casting, an absurd performance by Jeff Bridges and 3-D special effects that make the entire movie look like it was shot inside a cave, at night while everyone wore sunglasses.
If you can get past these errors, there is a solid center dealing with Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) the seventh son of a seventh son who becomes the apprentice to a cantankerous knight, Master Gregory (Bridges). Their noble job is to find and kill witches, especially the biggest witch of them all, Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore). She’s one blood moon away from taking over.
Complicating the quest to stop all of the evil is a budding relationship between two star-crossed lovers.
Director Sergei Bodrov presents the screenplay by Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight — based on the novel “The Spook Apprentice” by Joseph Delaney — like a knockoff fantasy role-playing video game. The action only pauses long enough to give the audience just enough bits of information needed to get to the next big battle.
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A little more explanation and history would have given the film more weight. But, just like a video game, “Seventh Son” isn’t meant to be a deep exploration of the battle between good and evil. All you really need to know is that knights are good, most witches are bad.
That puts all the pressure on the action sequences. The fight scenes — or at least what can be seen of them through the darkened world of the 3-D — are not bad but in this age of ground-shaking visual images, these are just passable.
If the film had any hope of being a success it needed the visual elements to be superb. That’s because the casting was so weak, especially Moore as the wicked witch of the fiords. She’s just not foreboding enough to make her reign of terror all that menacing. In the end she just looks like a woman who has been crying so much her makeup is running.
She’s better than Bridges, who plays Master Gregory as if it were a high school production of “Don Quixote” and he’s the Man of LaMumbles. His effort to give the role some character by talking like he’s Demosthenes with a mouth full of pebbles does nothing for the film.
The best performances come from Barnes as the novice hero, Alicia Vikander as his witchy love and Olivia Williams as his protective mother. The three almost balance the decision to cast Bridges and Moore (who haven’t worked together since “The Big Lebowski”) as the central players.
Expectations were low for “Seventh Son” because the release was delayed two years and it went from the Warner Bros. Studios to Universal. It’s not as bad as all that shuffling would lead you to believe. But, there are enough stumbles that the film never crawls above a safe level of mediocrity.