Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Seventh Son (2014)

Seventh Son (2014)

Director: Sergey Bodrov

Cast: Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Julianne Moore, Djimon Hounsou, Olivia Williams, Jason Scott Lee

Sometimes movies get the shaft at the box office because of a lot of crap that goes on behind the scenes, stuff sometimes we as an audience are completely unaware of. For example, Terry Gilliam’s The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (1989) was a huge box office bomb, not because it was a bad film, but because of a shift in administration at Columbia Pictures, and so the new head honchos treated the previous administrations films like crap, so Adventures of Baron Munchausen wasn’t promoted well, the result was an excellent film that died a quick death at the box office. Of course, now the film is considered one of Terry Gilliam’s best, but when it was first released a shift in administration at Columbia turned it into a 60 million dollar fiasco. A similar thing happened to Seventh Son, not that Seventh Son is anywhere near as awesome as Adventures of Baron Munchausen, but it is a film that deserved a better chance at the box office. For me, it’s a fun film that’s far from being terrible. The problem with Seventh Son was that it was produced by Legendary Pictures, who at one point were going to partner up with Warner Brothers to distribute the film (if you check the poster I've posted it actually has the WB logo!) but that partnership fell through and Warner Bros. and Legendary Pictures parted ways. Then Legendary partnered up with Universal Pictures, but by then, the film’s release had lost momentum. The thing is that when movie buffs see constant delays and changes in release dates they get the feeling that the film isn’t going to be that good, because the studio is stalling its release. Film buffs can sniff a stinker from miles away! I myself felt the delay was because the film wasn’t going to be that good. What did I know about a shift in partnerships between studios? So the film was a box office bomb in the United States which at least made its budget back with its worldwide intake. Still, I feel American audiences could have given this one a better chance.

Seventh Son is all about a Master Gregory, a sorcerer who dedicates his life to killing monsters, demons and witches. He has an apprentice, but loses him in a battle with an evil witch called Mother Malkin; so since a sorcerer cannot be without an apprentice, now Master Gregory has to find a new apprentice, The Seventh Son of a Seventh Son. You see, supposedly, the seventh son of a seventh son makes perfect sorcerers’ apprentice. So Gregory is searching for that special young man. Once he finds him, they have to team up to go up against Mother Malkin, before she becomes all powerful and rules the land with her coven of witches.

The thing about Seventh Son is that it was actually entertaining. I was ready to rip it a new one, because honestly, I was expecting a terrible film. The fact that the studio held this one back for so long made me raise a red flag. Usually when a studio gets cold feet with the release of a movie, it’s because the movie is bad and they are looking for just the right moment in which to release it so it won’t have much competition at the box office.  Also, who the hell was this director? I knew nothing of Sergey Bodrov’s body of work, I didn’t know what to expect. I had no basis of comparison. Thankfully the film turned my expectations around. Almost immediately Jeff Bridges portrayal of Master Gregory got me to like the film, I mean, here’s Jeff Bridges breathing life into this character, he gave it a real unique persona, I liked that about it. Bridges infused the character with just the right amount of comedy and charisma. So much so that some reviews say that it’s Bridges Master Gregory that saves the film. I have to say that it certainly is one of the films high points, but the film has other good things going for it as well.

You see, this is a fantasy film along the lines of let’s say, Willow (1988), Legend (1985) or Krull (1983); films in which our heroes exist in a magical land filled with monsters, magic and witches. On these types of films, the main character goes from zero to hero, sometimes in a matter of seconds and obviously, always going through a quick training montage with their ‘master’. In this sense, Seventh Son is not original at all, which is one of the reasons it doesn’t get a perfect score from me. You see, this film goes through all the cliché’s of a heroes journey, finding his magical sword in a magical cave…being trained by his master and finally, seeing  the main character put what his learned to good use in his first adventure. But it’s all cool, because it surprised me that Seventh Son actually took some of those clichés and turned them around. For example, there’s a moment in which the apprentice, Tom Ward, finds a magical sword and grabs it from the hands of a corpse, a scene that reminded me of identical scenes in Conan the Barbarian (1982) and Legend (1985), then the film surprises me and has the spirit of the former owner of the sword actually fight with Tom for his sword! So while Seventh Son isn’t completely original, it still has the ability to surprise you at certain points. It's well aware of fantasy movie cliche's so it tries its best to turn them around. The dialog is quick and witty because the filmmakers know that we're savvy, so the dialog gets to the point rather quickly, it doesn't stall.

Films like Seventh Son are essentially monster films; they exist to wow us with their monsters. Remember the two headed dragon in Willow (1988)? Or Meg Mucklebones, the water witch from Legend (1985)? How about the army of Skeletons in Jason and the Argonauts (1963)? All show stopping monsters! Well, Seventh Son is this kind of film, filled to the brim with monsters at every turn. I enjoyed the creatures on this one, in fact this film felt like a homage to all those old Ray Harryhausen fantasy films like Sinbad and the Eye of the Tiger (1977) or Clash of the Titans (1981). Actually, one of the creatures that they fight in Seventh Son feels like a total update of the Kali Statue that Sinbad fights in The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973). So at least the filmmakers behind Seventh Son knew exactly the kind of film they were making. They made sure the monsters were awesome to behold. Modern “monster films” sometimes offer us generic monsters that we can’t really take a good look at, in Seventh Son the monsters are a showcase and I have to admit I loved that about it. Not only that, I found them to be well animated. The only time I like computer generated images is when they are done right, and on this show they got the monsters right. The only negative thing I can say about the effects is that they decided to use morphing effects, which I think are out dated. Sadly they use them on Seventh Son all the time, which was a huge let down. So the computer effects go from freaking awesome, to not so freaking awesome and in that sense the film is a bit uneven. But I will say that in terms of effects, the good out weights the bad.

Above, a creature from Seventh Son (2014), below The Kali Statue from The Golden Voyage of Sinbad (1973)

So what we got here ladies and gentlemen is not a classic or a masterpiece, but a damn fun fantasy film with cool monsters and a cool character thanks to Jeff Bridges Master Gregory, who infuses enough comedy and charisma into the proceedings to keep us entertained. The monsters are cool, and the film harkens back to the old Harryhausen fantasy classics, where monsters mattered! And speaking of the monsters and the effects on this movie, the visual effects were produced by John Dykstra, the visual effects genius who's worked in films like Star Wars (1977), Lifoforce (1985) and Spiderman (2002) among many other effects heavy films, so this is probably the reason why the monsters on this film are so cool. Plus it has an excellent cast. We even get a The Big Lebowski (1998) reunion with Jeff Bridges and Julianne Moore working together again. The only thing that brings it down is that it isn’t all that original, and the CGI is sometimes off. But otherwise, we have a fun film you should give a chance to if you like fantasy and monster films.

Rating: 4 out of 5  



venoms5 said...

Hey Fran, I've never even heard of this one. Granted, I've been out of the loop on most modern movies, but I don't recall hearing anything about this one at all. Looks and sounds fun, Fran. Thanks for the engaging write up. It's made me interested in checking this one out.

Franco Macabro said...

Hope you enjoy it if you give it a chance, it's fun, albeit cliched filled. But its got cool as hell monsters, a lover of fantasy films should enjoy it. I know how much you love Harryhausen movies, which is why I think you will dig this one!


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