Seventh Son just does not give a flying dragon fuck. The latest in a long line of fantasy epics that include Season of the Witch, Jack the Giant Slayer and Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters, this movie knows exactly what it is. And Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore know what kind of movie they're in. Spoilers ahead...
There's nothing particularly good about Seventh Son, unless you want to see Jeff Bridges doing a silly voice for two hours while clowning around in a Don Quixote beard, and Julianne Moore vamping as if someone has stolen her children and is threatening to toss them into a garbage incinerator, unless Julianne brings out her inner Bette Midler. I laughed ugly during this movie.
So in Seventh Son, Jeff Bridges is Master Gregory, an old "Spook," or witch-hunter. (He also tends other magical things, but basically he hunts witches.) Years ago, he tricked the evil witch Mother Malkin (Moore) into being trapped in a pit thingy, but now there's a blood moon, and she's able to turn into a dragon and escape. (Turning into a dragon is her go-to move.) Soon enough, she's confronting Bridges and his apprentice, played by Kit Harington from Game of Thrones. That confrontation goes about the way you'd expect, since this movie doesn't co-star Kit Harington.
So Master Gregory needs a new apprentice, and he finds one in Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), the seventh son of a seventh son. Tom's stuck tending pigs on a farm, and dreams of adventure — but as soon as he gets the call to adventure, he suddenly isn't sure he wants it. Whatever. Tom also falls in love with a young witch (Alicia Vikander) in like 30 seconds, and meanwhile Tom's mother (Olivia Williams from Dollhouse) has a secret — which in this movie, can only be one thing.
So Tom is learning to fight witches from Master Gregory, with only like a week before the blood moon is full and Hell rains down. But he's also making nookie with his witch girlfriend.
The bad news is, none of the character turns in this movie feels particularly logical or earned. The good news is, everything happens really, really quickly, and you can always count on Jeff Bridges to make a silly face and say something in his Frank Oz-inspired "goofy grumpy old man" voice. And every once in a while, we cut back to Julianne Moore, whose shoulderpads get bigger and more dragony every time, and she's declaiming as if someone has her children suspended over the trash fire right this second.
Oh, and Mother Malkin has a whole team of witchy hench-people... there's an assassin guy, played by Djimon Hounsou, who has a whole gang of forest ninjas. And there's a werewolf guy. And a were-bear guy, too. And some Hindu figure, possibly Shiva the Destroyer, is there too, just kind of hanging out. There were a bunch of other hench-peeps, but I kind of lost track of them.
For his part, Master Gregory has an ogre sidekick who just wandered into this movie out of Hansel and Gretel, Witch Hunters, and who shows up randomly — and every time the ogre appears, Master Gregory says "You're as loyal as you are ugly!" as if he's never said that before.
The whole "whatever, you already paid your ten bucks" vibe this movie gives off is actually kind of charming after a while. Bridges does this weird kind of smirk, as he changes his accent every time he opens his mouth, and Ben Barnes is weirdly likable as this guy who just wants to get some witch nookie but keeps having to study witch-killing instead.
There's a weak lunge, here and there, at giving Master Gregory and Mother Malkin a past, or some kind of character development. Every now and then, the movie tries to suggest a real conflict, or theme, over whether it's good to go around killing witches. But whatever ambition Seventh Son had to tell a real story, with character development and stuff, is long gone. (I notice the trailers have some character-building scenes in them, that weren't the actual movie.)
And yet, in the final analysis, this movie is probably about as entertaining as Jack the Giant Killer, and up there with Season of the Witch. (Although it's nowhere near in the same league as Hansel and Gretel.) There's enough crazypants action, involving people turning into giant lizards randomly and having human-lizard ninja fights, that it sort of clops along at a good pace. It's marred, though, by an ending that feels cheap and unearned, and a final battle that falls kind of flat.
To be honest, I saw Seventh Son and Jupiter Ascending within a couple days of each other — I kind of expected Seventh Son to be a tiresome mess, and Jupiter Ascending to be a fun, braindead romp. But if anything, the two positions were reversed. Seventh Son is an even worse movie than Jupiter Ascending, but because it has an actual plot and moves at a fast pace and has absolutely no aspirations or self-respect, it fully inhabits the "so bad it's good" zone.
And in the inevitable "great actors chewing scenery in villain roles" comparison, I found Julianne Moore's camptastic villainy more fun to watch than Eddie Redmayne's — they both pantomime it up, but he puts so much slurring, hissing, whispering, bellowing work into every line that it's kind of exhausting to watch. Moore, meanwhile, is just having fun with what she knows is going to be a blot on her resume forever.
And every time Julianne Moore gets bored, she turns into a dragon. There's absolutely nothing to complain about here.