Lucky number seven.
Finding a seventh son of a seventh son might be a little tricky today with the average fertility rate hovering around 1.9 children. Luckily larger families were in vogue in the medieval setting of this movie.
John Gregory (Jeff Bridges) is himself the seventh son of a seventh son. He’s also known as a spook or a knight who protects others from the evil witches, ghosts and boggarts that haunt the countryside. But, Master Gregory, as he prefers to be called, is a little hard on apprentices. He lost his last one (Kit Harington) in a fiery encounter with Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore), the Queen of the witches. Now he needs a replacement.
Luckily for him, Master Gregory is drawn to an out-of-the-way peasant’s farm on the edge of a pristine mountain lake. (The scenery is the most spectacular part of the film.) There he finds Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) another seventh son of a seventh son. Tom, who recognizes Master Gregory from a recurring vision he experiences, has spent too many days slopping the family’s pigs and is ready for a new adventure. However he has yet to appreciate the work involved in being an apprentice.
Meanwhile Mother Malkin, who escaped from the cave Master Gregory put her in, is a little angry about her years of confinement. Now free of her prison, she summons all of the other sorcerers and evil spirits in the kingdom with plans to mount a full on attack against the humans. Unfortunately the fight is anything but fair since Mother Malkin’s cohorts have the ability to morph into huge and hideous monsters.
The warfare between the two groups involves endless scenes of swordplay and hand-to-hand combat with knives and spears. (There are some similar types of fights that take place between humans in a pub.) While most of the battles remain bloodless, there are other more disturbing scenes where characters are purposefully set on fire and burned.
Of course every adventure story needs a little romance and that happens when Tom meets Alice (Alicia Vikander). Being totally infatuated with the girl (something he didn’t see much of on the farm), Tom doesn’t seem to be disturbed after he discovers she is actually a witch sent to spy on him. Their budding relationship includes a couple of passionate kisses and a scene of cuddling in bed.
For the most part, Tom is a reluctant hero who whimpers his way through his early encounters with the evil ones. And the reasons for his sudden transformation into the man of strength he should be, are a little vague. But Master Gregory introduces an entirely different set of issues for viewers. He has a comfortable relationship with his flask and appears to be slightly tipsy most of the time. Whether it’s the liquor or the unusual accent he takes on, you’ll have to listen closely to actually understand the dialogue of this lubricated nobleman.
Seventh Son appears to have had lofty aspirations to be a grand adventure—in the realm of Lord of the Rings or even The Chronicles of Narnia - Prince Caspian (one of Barnes’ other roles). But while the script contains the kind of “believe in yourself” messages we expect to find in a movie aimed at teens, this outing is much more average than epic.