Friday, 20 March 2015

Seventh Son (2015) - Movie Review

With Hollywood currently ingrained in third-wave YA adaptation territory with the upcoming finale to the Hunger Games series later on this year and the recently released thing-I-look-forward-to-like-an-axe-to-the-genitals Insurgent, it’s kind of refreshing to a good old fashioned first-wave fantasy film. Sure, it’s another retread of the Hero’s Journey that most scriptwriters can literally write in their sleep, but any variety is better than no variety. Of course, last time “Young Adult Adaptation” and “Jeff Bridges” shared space with each other, we got the severe let-down The Giver, so I can’t exactly say that I’m looking forward to this all that much. However, the combo of Bridges and Julianne Moore will attract me to pretty much anything at this rate, so let’s get into this.

The plot: Gregory (Jeff Bridges) is a Spook, a knight tasked with fighting the creatures of the dark. After the witch queen Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) escapes her confinement that Gregory placed her in years before, and begins her plans for revenge, Gregory enlists a new apprentice in the form of Tim (Ben Barnes), a seventh son of a seventh son who has visions of the future. Gregory must train Tim to be ready for the Blood Moon, where every witch will be at the height of their power, and finally put an end to Malkin.

The cast here are… actually, I’m not even sure if there’s a word to accurately describe the effect here for the most part. Julianne Moore and Jeff Bridges, in what appears to be the weirdest attempt at a Big Lebowski reunion possible, are extremely bizarre in their respective roles. Moore, possibly after seeing her heart-breaking turn in Still Alice, feels like she went full method and studied every evil witch in fiction to nail down her on-screen presence, resulting in a performance that is a little creepy, a little intimidating and, honestly, a little hot in that crazy-sexy kind of way. I highly doubt that anyone else would be able to compliment someone’s shoes and make it sound as hilarious and worrying as Moore does here.

On the other end of this is Bridges, who sounds like he’s trying to do his best Gandalf impression through a mouth full of chewing tobacco. The fact that he looks like a hobo Green Arrow just makes his already awkward voice sound even funnier. However, possible due to Bridges’ natural charisma that always manages to shine through even in his worst films, his aloof attitude and line delivery somehow make all of that work in his favour. He is carries himself off as that much of a badass for the most part that I wouldn’t dare bring any of this up to his face, half out of respect for the guy and half out of fear that he would smash my face with a full tankard of ale. With these two on screen, the supposed lead Ben Barnes feels like a bit of an afterthought, but he is very entertaining in his own right with plenty of dry snark to his character, working really well at complimenting and, at times, contrasting with Bridges, making for a good buddy dynamic between them. Seeing Kit Harington get some cinematic karma for his role in Pompeii is a big plus as well.

The CGI is mostly good; not to say that it looks entirely realistic, but it serves its purpose in this fantastical setting. A lot of the effects work, and by association a lot of the action beats, involve shape-shifting by the villains into dragons, flying creatures and… jungle cats (Drew a short straw on that one) and they are passable. I specify mostly good, because this yet another film where the green screening is outright garbage; we get quite a lot of Puma Man moments here with how laughable they get. As for the action, this film peaks a little too early with Gregory in a bar brawl; his attitude, his one-liners, the Drunken Master fight choreography that feels like a watered-down version of that found in The World’s End; it’s a damn good scene that the rest of the film never really manages to catch up with.

Of course, this all would have worked a bit better if there was a decent script behind it all, as is the case with an awful lot of films of late. However, it seems like there has been at least a vague attempt at trying to inject some grey morality into the proceedings. Gregory and Malkin, from the offset, are surrounded with an air that they may not be on the sides we initially think that they are, with Gregory being a bit bloodthirsty in his methods and Malkin just trying to protect her own brood. However, it genuinely seems like this film isn’t nearly clever or self-aware enough to make any real use of such things. As such, the only thing that can be solidly grasped from all this is that Gregory is pretty incompetent at his job, taking the typical jaded approach to his demon-hunting duties and coming across more like he just doesn’t care about the innocent. That, and a fight scene with him and Kit Harrington against Malkin as his previous apprentice gives a pretty vivid idea on why his apprentices keep dying if this is how he instructs them to fight.

Now, while the failed attempts at shades of grey (a phrase that I don’t think anyone will be able to read the right way ever again) are bad and fill the movie with this feeling of extreme uncertainty in terms of what the writers were intending, there is something else that tops even that. I call this collective moment 'The Convenience Ledge' and it is a constant barrage of increasingly lazy writing that it legitimately one of the worst pieces of plot convenience that I have ever seen. *SPOILERS* After Gregory is kidnapped and Tom falls over a cliff, we find that he managed to land on a small ledge relatively unharmed, then we see that Gregory’s weapon landed right next to him, then Tom gets a visit from his now-deceased mother on how to defeat the main villain, then we see that Gregory’s servant Tusk also survived falling off of the cliff and is hanging from the ledge while all this is going on. Words fail me on this one, although my laughter certainly didn’t as I was cracking up uproariously in the cinema during all this. Thankfully, I was one of only three people in the cinema at the time.

All in all, this is pretty lame but not to the point of inducing anger in its audience. The effects work is decent and the acting is okay, even if it may be haphazard in areas, the writing is gloriously awful in its failed attempts at differing moralities and world-building in general, not to mention the sheer hilarity that is The Convenience Ledge. If you’re planning on watching this, I’d advise waiting for when you can watch at home with friends, as this is another film that is great fodder for late-night riffing sessions. Otherwise, you can skip this one.

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