20 years ago, Russian director Sergei Bodrov’s Prisoners of the Mountain was nominated for a foreign language Academy Award. That should have been his cue to jump into the sarlacc throat of Hollywood. It didn’t happen. He’s spent the last decade doing internationally funded historical epics starring people who don’t make box office in America. Somewhere in there, he also directed Seventh Son, which was Legendary Pictures’ hope for their own Lord of the Rings. Hence the impressive talent assembled behind the scenes, including Bryan Singer cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel, who recently shot Drive for Nicolas Winding Refn; longtime Martin Scorsese production designer Dante Ferretti, whose other credits include The Name of the Rose, Cold Mountain, and Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd; and John Dykstra for visual effects, whose career began with Silent Running and then a modest sci-fi project called Star Wars. But after Bodrov completed Seventh Son, it sat on the shelf for more than two years. This year, it was unceremoniously defenstrated into the dreaded January release window, alongside Jupiter Ascending. It flopped.
Did it deserve it? Who can say. Is it a bad movie? Maybe. Whatever. Do I count it among my guilty pleasures? You bet. This is no made-for-TV throwaway B-movie starring Adrian Paul alongside Syfy level production values. The top-notch behind-the-scenes talent comes through with a procession of imaginative set pieces. And in the lead, Jeff Bridges’ grumpy old wizard is a thing to behold. Imagine Gandalf crossed with Mr. Miyagi crossed with The Dude, but with the One True Beard and Mustache to bind them all. An astute Lebwoski-phile might figure his tavern intro as the bad-ass mage variant of “Hey, careful man, there’s a beverage here…”. He and Julianne Moore play their hero and villain roles as if they were exes at an uneasy standoff after a bitter divorce, but with crazy CG action sequences.
Although the two young leads are both duds, the rest of the cast is a lively group sparingly applied: not nearly enough Olivia Williams (Is there ever?), a brief but delightful Kit Harington appearance, and the distractingly hot Antje Traue (Man of Steel, Pandorum) bound up in a Ren Faire dress. To be fair, the costumes in Seventh Son are as aces as the rest of the production values. When Julianne Moore meets the ingenue, she takes the time to compliment her shoes.
The witch-hunters vs. witches world-building plays out a bit like The Witcher. In fact, this could be a Witcher movie, except for the fact that Bridges is such an unrepentant goofball. “It’s near impossible to battle demons when you have wet feet,” he grunts to his new apprentice, sending him off to get his shoes repaired, and reminding him to pick up flour, salt, grease, and bacon. “Fucking witches,” he will later mutter after briefly breaking down some backstory about the end of the world. He has a bitchin’ Bat Cave and the Witcher version of a Batmobile. It’s like he finished the main quest a long time ago and he’s at the level cap, so he can’t be bothered to do side quests anymore. This stuff is like DLC to him.
Seventh Son is available for VOD. Support Qt3 and watch it at Amazon.com.