Wednesday, April 22, 2015


I mean god dammit, you try to go into each movie with open mind, open heart. You recall the universal scorn received by undeserving movies that obscured their virtues: the solid, old school fantasy adventure JOHN CARTER (OF MARS); the far-from-perfect but surprisingly smart and movingly revisionist THE LONE RANGER; hell, even an effervescent, fun, and sexy piece of pop cinema like DRAGONBALL: EVOLUTION. And so you go into something like Sergei Bodrov's SEVENTH SON, which disappeared quickly after a widely-lambasted theatrical run, expectations low but (previous examples in mind) hoping for at least a modest diversion.

All the elements are there: actors who've done good work elsewhere (including reuniting LEBOWSKIites Jeff Bridges and Juliette Lewis), a decent-enough story (from a YA fantasy novel by Joseph Delaney), an actual plot that expands a bit on the usual Chosen One tropes common to this kind of story, attractive effects and decently-conceived environments and creatures. But it all just seems to unfold uninvolvingly before your eyes, never taking hold of anything inside you, just existing lifelessly on screen before you. Everyone commits, but nothing catches fire. The three movies cited above, though they vary in quality, all possess something soulful that involves us, but that involvement is never felt in SEVENTH SON. Was it a language barrier (with Bodrov making his English language debut)? Was it tinkered with by unseen hands in the two years (TWO YEARS) between its completion and its release?

Even in as productized a landscape as contemporary Hollywood it is rare that a movie appears with no clear reason for its existence. Routine story elements can be viewed with fresh eyes and mined for small original tweaks (or at least invested with genuine emotion), but no one involved seems to have asked how to make this modest little fantasy something different, or special. (Indeed, it regurgitates some of the genre's more tiresome aspects, from its villainess turning to evil after being rejected by a lover to a group of villains cast with most of the movie's non-male, non-white actors.) There is no excuse for SEVENTH SON to be as lifeless as it is, and it's frustrating that the talented people assembled to make it couldn't (or wouldn't) elevate it to the level of even a modest pleasure. No one looking at the movie during its making could have thought that they had a complete movie on their hands - why should the audience feel any different?