(M) Starring: Ben Barnes, Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander
The seventh son of a seventh son, Thomas Ward (Ben Barnes) has been destined for greatness in a fantasy world called The County. Chosen to perform a task that will take him beyond his farm upbringing. An adaptation of Joseph Delaney’s novel The Wardstone Chronicles, Seventh Son follows Thomas being handpicked by the local “spook”, Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges) — to be his apprentice. This duo’s mission is to fight off the multitude of dark characters that inhabit their world, such as witches, ghouls and some enormous monstrosity called a boggart.
Gregory is the last of a band of warriors that can fight against the rise of a queen witch, Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore, who won the Best Actress Oscar this year for Still Alice). As Gregory’s sidekick, Thomas must learn quickly to overcome his own fears and lack of trust in his new mentor. He has to come to terms with the realities of a world that he thought was merely mythology. He also must grapple with his newfound gifts, and the burgeoning love of young witch Alice (Alicia Vikander).
The effect of making multiple copies of an original is that the quality diminishes with each copy. In the search for the next fantasy cinematic adventure, Seventh Son has the feel of an attempted copy of The Lord of the Rings series, Snow White and the Huntsman and even — if you can believe it — a humourless, medieval twist on Ghostbusters. The recruitment of Oscar winners Moore and Bridges (he won Best Actor for Crazy Heart) brings hope for this fantasy tale, considering the massive appeal of them facing off on-screen. Unfortunately, their talent is wasted within this unoriginal story.
Bridges is a commanding force on the screen, but it’s hard to get past the mumbling delivery of his lines. Many times his dialogue is not discernible, but that won’t trouble you as much as how lead actor Barnes (the Chronicles of Narnia series) seems to be suffering from a case of “supporting actor trapped in a leading man’s body”. He does not have the charisma or masculine presence to match Bridges, or arrest our attention. Also, as a romantic lead, Barnes lacks all trace of chemistry with Vikander.
Aside from these performance and casting issues, Seventh Son is more greatly diminished by the weakness of characters and the story’s development. Director Sergey Bodrov does manage to provide beautiful scenery as a constant backdrop, and special effects are admirable. But these elements will fail to capture your imagination. Like the “blue spark” that goes off when Thomas and Alice touch, this story is merely dust on the fingers.
Seventh Son does open the door to some deeper considerations. Ponder this: the comparison between Thomas Ward and King David of the Bible. Seriously, you should think about it, because there is a rich and meaningful comparison to be made. Thomas is the the youngest son chosen by a “prophet” to go forward to battle an insurmountable evil. Thomas does not realise his potential until chosen by the elder. Remind you of David? Comparisons also can be made between Thomas’ strengths and weakness, and those of David — primarily that his main weakness would be a woman. Yet, in the end, Thomas represents the saviour for his world (as David did, for ancient Israel). Not to press the analogy too far — given author Delaney doesn’t seem to be trying to make this link between Thomas and David — but even in the weak storyline of Seventh Son, the “messianic message” continues to permeate narratives on screens and novels.
Leaving the cinema…
Throughout the film, there were sighs from the audience of “been here before”. Walking out of the cinema, it was a quiet walk to the lobby. Among the friends I saw this movie with, we tried to find positive points… but it was difficult. When cinematography is the only consistent positive note, it does not bode well for the latest “blockbuster” fantast adventure. Overall, Seventh Son was not too offensive or over-the-top for fantasy violence, but don’t be rushing out to see it.
What are the bigger questions to consider from this film?
1. Is there such thing as hell? (Mark 9, Revelation 20)
2. What is our purpose in the universe? (Proverbs 16:9, Romans 8:28)
3. Is God in control of this world? (Proverbs 19:21, Romans 8:28)