Title: Seventh Son
Director: Sergey Bodrov
Starring Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Ben Barnes, Djimon Hounsou and Kit Harington
In world where people continuously attempt to overcome their continuous internal struggles and conflicts with their rivals, escaping into a place of enchantments where legends and magic collide can be a spellbinding experience. ‘Seventh Son,’ which is based on Joseph Delaney’s fantasy novel, ‘The Spook’s Apprentice,’ and was directed by Russian helmer, Sergey Bodrov, is an intriguing stunt-filled action fantasy film that’s meant to showcase and emphasize people’s pure humanity. While the movie did succeed in that goal in some regards, particularly through the help of its creative sets and intriguing stunts, some of the substandard visuals and lack of true emotional development unfortunately doesn’t allow viewers to truly embrace the film’s truly alluring nature about humanity’s limitless possibilities.
‘Seventh Son’ follows Master John Gregory (Jeff Bridges), the last remaining Falcon Knight, who are a part of an ancient order of noble warriors who has protected humanity from creatures of the dark for centuries. Master Gregory is a grizzled demon-slayer who also hunts witches who are seduced by their Queen, Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore). He quickly learns that the biggest mistake he ever made was when he buried her underground in an effort to control her influence, instead of killing her, as her power and hunger for vengeance only grew. After she sets her sights on his latest apprentice, Billy Bradley (Kit Harington), Master Gregory sees that the transformation she underwent while she was held in her prison has only led to her drive to seek revenge.
As Mother Malkin assembles an army of witches, warlocks and supernatural assassins, who unite to punish the cruel world that has rejected them, Master Gregory must find a new companion to fight back against the evil witch. So the Falcon Knight tracks down the world’s last Seventh Son, Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), a simple farmhand who’s torn from his family to embark on a death-defying adventure across haunted forests and towering cities. While Tom struggles with his new role, the two set out to battle Mother Malkin’s army in her mountaintop lair.
While the mentor and his title apprentice are determine to stop the Queen Witch before her power becomes unstoppable, Tom’s allegiance is tested when he falls in love with a half-witch spy, Alice (Alicia Vikander), who’s sent to sabotage the duo. Their growing passion forces both to choose between love and duty. The young couple must decide if they should continue battling the perceived darkness of their enemies and fight for their families, or forsake it all in order to follow their hearts.
The most captivating foundations of the visually-driven and design-oriented ‘Seventh Son’ also lead way into the elements that unfortunately made the action fantasy film ungratifying and disappointing. While the movie’s production designer, Dante Ferretti, built extraordinary sets throughout Canada, particularly Vancouver and other areas in British Columbia, as well as Alberta, and stunt coordinator Paul Jennings crafted enticing choreography for the battle sequences, the visual effects were inadequate and unfulfilling for such an elaborately stunt and action-driven story.
To powerfully emphasize how the settings influenced the tireless battle that Master Gregory and Tom continuously unleashed on Mother Malkin and her devoted team of demons, Ferretti effortlessly arranged real locations with carefully designed sets that enthrallingly represented the Dark Ages. From the eerie Lynn Canyon, where the Falcon Knight was ambushed by one of his nemesis’ assassins, Radu (Djimon Hounsou), which incorporated dangerous cliffs and caverns that didn’t offer any safe havens for the warrior, to the ethereal Minaty Bay, which captivatingly captured the isolated nature of the Ward homestead, the production designer creatively emphasized the locations where the characters felt most at ease.
Another notable key set that powerfully showcased a major turning point in some of the major characters’ relationships was the Walled City, where Tom and Alice first meet. With its impressive thick walls of grey brick, latticed windows and dirt streets, the city enthrallingly mixed impressive influences such powerful cultures as the Byzantine, Turkish and Eastern European empires. From the vibrant mixes of various food, animal and home good stands, the city creatively highlighted the distinct and diverse lifestyles Tom and Alice have become accustomed to, and how their differences are harrowingly preventing them from easily progressing their bond.
While ‘Seventh Son’ offered some character and story development through its elaborate and insightful sets, Jennings effectively embraced the momentous task of further showcasing their emotional transformations through the changes in the actors’ body language and movements during their fight sequences. One of the fantasy film’s most impressive stunt sequences is when Barnes is intensely fighting an aggressively large boggart (a spirit that inhabits fields and marshes in English folklore), as he and Master Gregory were tracking Mother Malkin. The actor impressively worked with Jennings to learn how to fight the imaginary 25-foot monster in a large water tank for almost four days, before visual effects designer John Dykstra digitally composed the boggart into the scene.
While Dykstra and his team deserve credit for creating the distinct digital aspects of the daring action fantasy film, especially since they had to help Barnes and the rest of the cast understand the virtual environment and creatures they were interacting with, there were aspects of the film that unfortunately appeared muddled and difficult to decipher. One of the most disconcerting visual aspects of ‘Seventh Son’ was the way it appeared in 3D in IMAX. The visual element, which started off by impressively drawing viewers into Master Gregory’s distressing world of constantly fighting demons, quickly became blurry and indistinct, which quickly discredited the believability of the story and dire fight between the forces of good and evil.
‘Seventh Son’ is a daring and commendable effort by Bodrov, who boldly tried to showcase the battle between good and evil, as well as the tense emotional struggles both sides faced, in his adaptation of Delaney’s beloved novel. While Ferretti was able to grippingly emphasize those deep-rooted conflicts in his impressive production design, and Jennings intriguingly showcased the diverse characters’ distinct motivations through the stunts he powerfully choreographed, the film’s visual effects were disappointingly ungratifying for a movie that’s so intricately reliant on its stunts and action sequences.
Written by: Karen Benardello