I’ll say this for Seventh Son: it wanted to be over as badly as I wanted it to end. The film fucking sprints to the finish line, barely taking even a moment from boring CGI action sequences or from hastily tapping story beats in passing to breathe or explore the world or get anything from its characters beyond exposition. The movie knows that it is a piece of shit and it puts its head down and charges right at the closing credits.
The film has been on a shelf for so long that the opening scene death of Kit Harington (Jon Snow on Game of Thrones) almost feels like a clever Psycho-inspired bit of rug-pulling instead of the casting of a then barely known actor in a small role. He gets perfunctorily offed by Julianne Moore, camping it up without confidence as Mother Malken, a dragon witch queen. She’s all mad at Jeff Bridge’s Master Gregory, a “Spook” - a knight dedicated to hunting creatures of the dark - because he trapped her in a cage at one point. With his latest apprentice toast, Master Gregory must find a new squire, and the traditions of his order demand that it be the seventh son of a seventh son. He ends up with a total damp squib of a kid, and together they have only one week to train and stop the witches/dragons/demons (the movie is pretty loose on this issue) who will destroy the entire world once the Blood Moon is full.
Bridges does a bizarre accent/voice as Gregory, made doubly bizarre by the fact that half the people in the movie just talk with modern American accents. I don’t even know how the accent choices were made; Ben Barnes, who plays Squib the Squire, is from London but speaks with an accent that indicates he wants to hit up the Hot Dog On A Stick at the food court, as does Kit Harrington and Olivia Williams. Meanwhile Bridges is doing some sort of Bane-like mumble, and Julianne Moore is speaking in High Drag Queen. Djimon Hounsou, playing a witch/dragon named Ragu (I won’t look it up, but it really sounded like that was his name), is just doing Djimon.
I wish that Bridges’ weird accent and baffling delivery (he swallows all his lines with a mouth full of gums) were interesting enough to elevate this junk into camp territory, but it doesn’t. Ben Barnes is such a dud he even sucks the life out of some of Bridges’ most oddball choices and moments. The two have no spark, and their every scene is a chore.
Less of a chore are the scenes Barnes shares with Alicia Vikander, his half-witch love interest (Vikander, a Swede, is also doing an American accent for some reason). Vikander smolders and has so much going on that she’s almost able to make Barnes seem alive, perhaps by reflecting her own heat off his dead, sunken features. Her story - her aunt is Mother Malkin, but she loves this spook-in-training - is so much more interesting than Squib the Squire’s tale that I cannot believe she isn’t the central character. This is based on a YA book - what kind of YA book doesn’t have the conflicted girl at the center?
One of the biggest bummers about Seventh Son is watching so many cool creatures being wasted on such a nothing movie. Mother Malken’s coven is admirably multicultural, and the Asian witch turns into a big bear, an African witch turns into a leopard, a couple of witches turn into dragons. One witch is a blue-skinned, multi-armed Shiva-type swordsman, which is so cool! In one scene two dragons fly high above a ruin and fight to the death! That’s so cool! In another scene a giant troll-like boggart battles our heroes while falling over a waterfall! That’s so cool! And I bet all of those things were cool in the art department renderings, but here, on screen, they’re lifeless and stupid, and what’s worse the movie just zips past them artlessly.
Like I said, I’m glad the movie wanted to end as badly as I wanted it to end. Seventh Son clocks in at around 100 minutes including credits, so it’s a quick sit. But that speediness means it’s barely a movie, with any atmosphere or uniqueness trimmed out in favor of getting in more showings a day of a movie the studio execs clearly knew was going to bomb. Don’t get me wrong - I don’t want more Seventh Son. This is a terrible movie. But right now it’s a terrible movie that feels like the Cliff Notes of a possibly more interesting terrible movie.