Universal Studios’ “Seventh Son,” a fantasy film by Sergei Bodrov, boasts gorgeous vistas, a couple of action scenes and A-list performers, such as Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore. Unfortunately, “Son” is totally devoid of humanity: It fails to connect emotionally to the audience. The result is a mercilessly boring adaptation of “The Spook’s Apprentice,” a children’s novel by Joseph Delaney.
In its opening scenes, “Seventh Son” gracelessly casts us into its medieval setting and introduces us to Master Gregory (Bridges). Gregory is a “Spook,” a legendary knight who hunts down and destroys dark creatures and monsters. His latest target is Mother Malkin (Moore), an evil witch who killed his last apprentice and now seeks to rule the world. Her plan: to take over on the night of the “Blood Moon,” a night where the moon turns red and strengthens her magical powers, rendering her unstoppable.
In need of a new apprentice, Gregory recruits Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), a farm boy who is the seventh son of a seventh son. As it turns out, being born seventh has its perks. Tom has extraordinary strength and resilience — both invaluable abilities in the monster-hunting business. If Gregory can successfully train him before the Blood Moon arrives, they can vanquish Mother Malkin for good.
Watch the official trailer for "Seventh Son" here:
Unfortunately, the script never develops Tom beyond a blank slate — and, although the writing doesn’t do him any favors, Barnes’ performance is flatter than paper. Bridges delivers a Rooster Cogburn-esque performance that suitably entertains in spite of his strange accent, and he seems to be having fun in the role. The same goes for Moore, who hams it up to the max but never becomes scary.
During their adventure, Tom meets Alice (Alicia Vikander), a kind witch who serves as Mother Malkin’s spy but also hopes to help the Spooks. Vikander does her best with the poor material, but is dragged down by a romance plot which sparks between her and Barnes. When I say spark, I mean that literally: A blue light sparks between the pairs’ hands when they touch for the first time, a kind of magic which signals they are destined to be together.
Romance isn’t the only thing in “Seventh Son” that moves briskly. The story suffers from light-speed pacing. The characters are thrust into action as soon as they’re introduced. We never get to know them as the film sprints from plot point to plot point. Because we aren’t invested in the Spooks, their battles against evil are dull and repetitive. We don’t care about who wins and who dies. To make things worse, the special effects are lousy. Plus, the 3-D effects blur and darken the screen, so much so that audiences must fight to understand what’s going on.
“Seventh Son” occasionally touches on the idea that humans can be just as monstrous as the monsters themselves. Alice explains that witches have the potential to be good, and only become evil because society has rejected and persecuted them. She certainly makes a good case for that argument, considering her innocence remains unsullied. Though the film tries to teach the audience that the world operates in shades of gray, the Spooks never stop thinking in terms of black and white. How can audiences buy into the film’s lesson if its heroes don’t?
“Seventh Son” is a mediocre effort by everyone involved, a failure by all accounts that is let down most by its poor script. Universal Studios should’ve demanded seven more rewrites.