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On Seventh Son, and films you don’t want to waste your time on

March 5th, 2015

“Fire will only make me stronger,” says a witch to a witchfinder early on in Seventh Son. So the witchfinder sets fire to the witch.

Had he killed her, we would have been spared the tedious, pointless, meandering hour and a half that was Seventh Son. Instead, the witch, whose name, we eventually learn maybe half-way through the film, long after we care, is Mother Malkin, played by Julianne Moore, in what could very nearly have been her very own Norbert Moment, survives to gurn and groan through this hound of a film. Moore is, usually, an exceptional actress. Even she isn’t up to the task of making a decent film of this nonsense. There was, I’m sure, a story somewhere in the minds of director Sergei Bodrov and Matt Greenberg, who has a “screen story” credit but whose adaptation of Joseph Delaney’s novel The Spook’s Apprentice warrants less credit and more shame. I’m sure there was, but it didn’t translate onto the screen.

Half an our into Seventh Son, my daughter, usually an aficionado of the sword-and-sorcery genre, leaned over to me and whispered “This is rubbish, isn’t it?” She was, I felt, rather generous. There’s no sense in dressing it up — Seventh Son is unmitigated shite. The witchfinder — the “spook,” he’s called — is played by Jeff Bridges, chewing scenery like no scenery has ever been chewed before as some sort of ill-defined ninja-magician, who has to train up an apprentice to fight witches. Cue, then, all the predictable tropes — unlikely candidate plucked from obscurity, hopeless at first, is trained up through humiliation and impossible tasks to become a deserving successor to mentor in a surprisingly short period of time. You’ve seen this nonsense before; you don’t need to waste your time seeing it again.

Bridges has been, in the past, a talented actor, but here he pulls the hood of his cape down and hides behind his beard, declaiming absurd lines in a voice — not simply an accent, but an entire way of speaking — that sounds like a constipated James Earl Jones after the helium’s starting to wear off. He does his best, I suppose, to put a little life into an otherwise utterly pointless and dull film. There may be a story, but it’s hard to tell — this happens, then that happens, then something else happens, with no apparent connection between events, no sense of narrative flow or coherence. A little exposition — even exposition as honking as Basil in the Austin Powers films — wouldn’t have gone amiss, a little explanation to the audience to help us to understand what’s going on. By the time it comes, we don’t care — even with the gorgeous scenery of British Columbia to distract us, the film is just crap.

Plot holes — at least I think they’re plot holes; the plot is so sketchy that I possibly dozed off briefly — abound; a minor, but named, character is killed off, only to reappear in the next scene, not even an “Oh, he’s immortal” or some other such device to explain why he’s not dead any more. Perhaps the writers got too bored even to bother trying to explain what the hell was going on.

Bridges and Moore, Oscar-winning talent both, should be embarrassed by this film, deeply and thoroughly ashamed to have had anything to do with it. Kit Harrington clearly isn’t making as much from his turn as Jon Snow in Game Of Thrones, as one might imagine; he must be in this disaster for the money, because there can’t possibly be any other reason why he agreed to show up in the obligatory tavern sequence early in the film. But he’s only in the film for a few minutes; presumably he realised how awful it was and decided that, no matter how badly he needs the money, he can’t possibly need it this badly. For all the beautiful scenery and richly-detailed and lovingly-filmed sets, the dialogue is clangingly absurd, lots of “You can’t fight your destiny” drivel that’s meant to sound meaningful and profound but simply red-lines the cliché-ometer.

Please don’t go and see this film. It cost, apparently, ninety-five million dollars to make. It doesn’t deserve to make ninety-five cents. Don’t go and see it — you’ll only encourage them.

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