(US/China - 2015)
Directed by Sergei Bodrov. Written by Charles Leavitt and Steven Knight. Cast: Jeff Bridges, Julianne Moore, Ben Barnes, Djimon Hounsou, Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Olivia Williams, Antje Traue, Jason Scott Lee, John DeSantis, Gerard Plunkett, Kandyce McClure, Luc Roderique, Zahf Paroo. (PG-13, 102 mins)
Filmed way back in 2012 and bounced around the schedule since its first announced release date of February 2013, the $100 million SEVENTH SON has finally arrived with some of the lowest expectations this side of 47 RONIN. The original release date was postponed after one of the film's primary companies in charge of the visual effects went bankrupt. After that was sorted out, the first official trailer appeared in theaters in July 2013, followed by numerous release date shuffles pushing the movie into 2014. Some time later, Legendary Pictures ended their partnership with distributor Warner Bros., setting up a new deal with Universal, who bumped SEVENTH SON to February 2015, likely to afford it a reasonable opportunity to distance itself from the 47 RONIN debacle of Christmas 2013. The train-wreck potential on this one is pretty high, but its primary offenses are shoddy visuals, sloppy writing, and a strict adherence to a stale formula. Despite the buckets of money thrown on the screen, SEVENTH SON doesn't look any better than one of Uwe Boll's straight-to-DVD IN THE NAME OF THE KING sequels, with some alarmingly unimpressive greenscreen backdrops and the daytime exteriors given the same kind of blurry, smeary soft focus that ABC News uses on Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer.
MONGOL (2008), the first installment of an announced trilogy whose second chapter has yet to materialize. It's hard to say what drew the 64-year-old Bodrov to a mega-budget Hollywood blockbuster-type project 40 years into his filmmaking career (he also directed PRISONER OF THE MOUNTAINS, a 1996 Oscar-nominee for Best Foreign Language Film), but the look and feel of SEVENTH SON is purely that of a B-grade LORD OF THE RINGS knockoff, from the inevitable swooping, circular aerial shots of the heroes walking along hills and mountaintops to the sage old mentor instructing a naive, impulsive pupil. The bland Barnes, who's seen whatever momentum he had going from being THE CHRONICLES OF NARNIA's Prince Caspian derailed by films shelved for anywhere from two (THE BIG WEDDING) to three (this) to even five years (LOCKED IN), was 31 at the time of filming and looks a good decade too old for his role. Barnes, currently the British guy you go to after Andrew Garfield, Jim Sturgess, Aaron Taylor-Johnson, and Alex Pettyfer turn you down, is largely indistinguishable from his CGI surroundings, and in many scenes, he and the supporting cast appear to be looped in a way that's just ever-so-slightly off, giving a certain slapdash feel to the proceedings. It's especially noticeable with Swedish Vikander and German Antje Traue (as Mother Malkin's witch sister), who are clearly dubbed with different voices in some scenes, and speak with their own audible accents in others. This, along with some later scenes where Barnes' hairstyle and Bridges' hair color have changed, are obvious indicators of hasty reshoots.
|Earlier Warner poster art reflecting just|
one of the film's many bumped release dates.