Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Seventh Son


Starring: Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Julianne Moore, Alicia Vikander, Olivia Williams

Rated PG-13 for Intense Fantasy Violence and Action Throughout, Frightening Images and Brief Strong Language

There are two reasons a person who is not a film critic would be caught in a screening of "Seventh Son:" they're a cinephile mistakenly thinking they're going to a screening of Ingmar Bergman's "The Seventh Seal" (the one where Max von Sydow plays chess with Death) or they're a teenage boy desperate for more fantasy action (who has watched "The Lord of the Rings" to death).  Neither is going to get their fix with "Seventh Son:" the cinephile will have a heart attack over seeing what film has become, and the teenager will be bored out of his mind.

If anyone is wondering why no one goes to the movies anymore, one need not look any further than "Seventh Son," yet another would-be fantasy franchise.  It's so chock full of action sequences and special effects that they become the movie; the plot is a mere pitch-line and the actors have virtually nothing to do.  Apparently, it's based on a book, but considering how little story there is in this
movie, I'm betting that Joseph Delaney is not pleased with what Hollywood has done to his book.

Master Gregory (Bridges) has just lost another protege.  He's looking for the "seventh son of a seventh son," who is the only one he can train.  I guess...why this is the case is left unexplained (or maybe I couldn't hear it between Bridges bizarre accent and his trippin' goatee).  Anyway, he's found it with a young lad named Tom Ward (Barnes), who becomes his new student.  But what would normally take years is something he'll have to learn in a week (and on the go).  That's because a witch named Mother Malkin (Moore), who is not out of a nursery rhyme, has special plans for the Blood Moon, which happens once a century.  And that next occurrence is in a week.

How could this have misfired so badly?  You've got some supremely talented actors here: Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Julianne Moore, Olivia Williams, and Djimon Hounsou.  The screenwriters are Charles Leavitt ("Blood Diamond") and Steven Knight ("Redemption," "Locke," "Closed Circuit").  And the director is Sergei Bodrov (I haven't seen any of his films, but his "Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan" made some waves in the art house circuit).  Strangely, it ended up having to be delayed by a whole year for "production delays" and the split of Legendary Pictures from Warner Bros.  Considering the final result, I'm guessing that there's more to the story.

I really wish Hollywood would stop trying to dilute filmmaking to a science so they can appeal to a worldwide audience.  It doesn't work.  Hollywood has been doing this for years, and it's gotten worse.  Audiences around the world have responded in kind.  Hollywood had a terrible year last year, and movies like this are why.  Special effects alone don't impress anyone anymore.  You have to have a story and characters worth caring about.  Wonder why movies like "Titanic," "Avatar." and "The Lord of the Rings" (a better comparison to this film than the James Cameron pictures) make billions while movies like this and "47 Ronin" bombed?  No one cared about anyone or anything in those movies.  Compare that to "The Dark Knight," which had people talking about this philosophical aspects of it, not to mention hanging on the edge of their seats.

Aside from the special effects, which are nicely staged (Bodrov doesn't shake the camera or frantically cut the film...for once), and the anemic plot, the film still doesn't impress.  The performances are bland, although that's mostly due to the script.  Everyone is hopelessly lost because they don't have a character to play.  Jeff Bridges is in particular is awful.  He talks like he has no tongue, which makes half of what he says unintelligible.  Ben Barnes sports a flawless American accent and good looks, but brings none of his charisma or talent to the film.  Julianne Moore, this year's frontrunner for the Best Actress Oscar (it's about time), chews the scenery, but she's miscast.  Alicia Vikander is pretty, but fades into the background.  The best that I can say about her is that she doesn't embarrass herself.  Olivia Williams and Djimon Hounsou have almost nothing to do, and considering how underrated they are, I hope they were at least well paid.

Maybe if they keep churning out crap like this (and seeing appropriately less than stellar returns), Hollywood will get the message and stop making crap like this.  Probably not, but hey, a guy can dream, right?

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