Jeff Bridges does a great impression of Mr. Ed, the Talking Horse, in this middling fantasy that is structured around a series of CGI-powered action sequences.
Grumbling and mumbling throughout, Master Gregory (Bridges) is a Spook, the last survivor of a proud army that has been decimated over the years. As a Spook, he is charged with fighting evil spirits to protect the local citizenry on a planet that may or may not be Earth, sometime in the Middle Ages, but he is growing old and must train a replacement, who must be the seventh son of a seventh son.
That individual turns out to be Tom Ward (Ben Barnes), a blandly handsome young man who is languishing on his family’s farm. Master Gregory arrives to take him away, paying a handsome price in gold, but before Tom leaves, his mother Mam (Olivia Williams) gifts him with a necklace that is very special to her.
Training to become a spook may take a decade or more, yet only weeks remain before the Blue Moon arises, signaling a crisis for the land because the powerful witch Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore) is poised to conquer the kingdom with the assistance of her younger sister Bony Lizzie (Antje Traue) and her niece Alice (Alicia Vikander), who are both witches as well.
When Tom and Alice meet, both are instantly smitten with the other, which spells trouble, since a Spook is supposed to kill all witches and this particular witch has been charged with spying on the Spooks, leading to their downfall.
More twists and turns arise, but the story comes down to a battle between the Spooks and the witches, the latter of whom can transform into dragons, making for a series of confrontations between CGI-empowered creatures.
Given a better-written vehicle for their talents, Bridges and Moore could make for a much more compelling couple, but with their characters drawn so plainly as hero and villain, there’s no room for complexity. This is a straightforward fairy tale, yet with the sides drawn so broadly, and played in such a sober manner, the battles lack any dramatic weight.
Director Sergey Bodrov has previously made large-scale epics, such as 2007’s Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan, and there is nothing much wrong with his manner of staging action sequences, but the excitement is tempered because such a high percentage of the scenes are devoted to watching computer-generated creatures fight each other. It’s tempting to call it a video-game movie, but there is no sense of narrative to the fiercely-moving pixels, so it all plays out in a desultory manner, as though the viewer were watching someone else play the game.
Bridges, Moore, Vikander, and Williams do their best, but they can’t overcome the limp narrative nor the extended sequences that accomplish little more than passing the time quietly, if colorfully. Seventh Son amounts to little more than a seventh-rate fantasy.
The movie opens wide in theaters across North Texas on Friday, February 6.