Every Wordpress template displays the same phrase when you first start using it: “Just another Wordpress blog.” I imagine that when director Sergei Bodrov first boarded Seventh Son, he observed a similar line. While he was able to take some creative liberties and transform this template into more of a throwback to classic fantasy films, it’s still “just another young-adult adaptation.” However, the sins of the Son are harmless enough, and some of you looking for a flashy blockbuster full of mythological monsters and witches powered by CGI will find this passable for entertainment.
The film is based on The Wardstone Chronicles, a series of five books by author Joseph Delaney, beginning with The Spook’s Apprentice. (That title would not be able to fill enough theater seats, hence Seventh Son.) Jeff Bridges, who’s coming off of R.I.P.D. and The Giver, takes the role of Master Gregory, a Spook, which is a simpler term for “warrior against darkness.” And he seems to be having a fantastic time playing this guy. Despite the fact that his character is the only character in this entire medieval world that dons a garbled accent, he wields it with such gusto that he’s able to turn the stagnant dialogue into hilarious moments. I was actually surprised by how funny this film was because of this. As for our young hero who’s supposed to be carrying the brunt of the film on his shoulders, Ben Barnes does an adequate job, but nothing that would sway legions of fans the way Katniss Everdeen would (and does).
When Master Gregory’s apprentice dies, he seeks out Tom Ward, “the seventh son of a seventh son.” (Side note: his former apprentice is Kit Harington. Sorry we spoiled that one for you, but it was clear by the trailers that Jon Snow did not have a major part to play in this movie.) This is where the film takes liberties with the mythology behind such a figure. According to Gaelic legend, the seventh son of a seventh son is said to have the gift of second sight. While Tom does have that, it’s a result of another aspect of his character. Instead, the descriptor merely means he’s supposed to have the strength of seven men and the necessary abilities required of a Spook.
It’s not explained how Master Gregory is able to find him, so don’t ask. That’s pretty much the answer Gregory gives everyone else, anyway. What is known is that Ward is needed now more than ever. Master Gregory is the last of his sacred order, and the evil queen of the witches, Malkin (Julianne Moore), has escaped her prison. By the next blood moon, she’ll have returned to full power, and will be able to lead her fellow witches and warlocks to claim dominion over the world of men.
A heroic duo looking to vanquish a horde of witches? You might be thinking that this is a rehashing of Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters. But Seventh Son has more in common with films like Jason and the Argonauts, Willow and Ladyhawke. There are grandiose creatures that come in and out of the picture for our leading gents to battle as they slowly but surely progress their journey into the witches’ lair deep in the wilderness. But this aspect is also a weakness. Though the classic image of Sinbad trapped deep in thought as he looks longing at the sea once invoked excitement and promise, when Tom does it, we’re left rolling our eyes or, even worse, giggling over how unoriginal and lazy it is.
Then there’s the whole “fate vs. free will” concept, which is tethered to a side story of love between Tom and the daughter of one of the witches. Are they destined to be together? Is Tom destined to follow in the footsteps of Master Gregory? Can he change his fate? Ultimately, if you want to muse over philosophical themes like this, save it for when you’re re-reading The Odyssey. Seventh Son is not trying to be some profound allegory or provoke insight conversation. Instead, it merely exists. It has neither a damning effect nor a lasting one, and by the end of the film you’ll be none the wiser.
Much as Bridges carries the character of Tom through trials and tribulations in the wilderness, he too carries the entire film. Without him, there would be no Seventh Son. His comedic timing and grand gestures are able to lift your spirits when all hope for this film seems lost. Though the idea of a sequel seems unlikely, I can’t imagine this film continuing on in such capacity without him. We’ll probably never reach this point, anyway, as the film was made for $95 million is tracking to earn back only a fraction of this cost, which just goes to reiterate my early statement: this is just another young-adult adaptation.