Talk about an awards-season buzzkill: Julianne Moore should hope that Oscar voters don’t take a peek at Seventh Son before they consider her nominated performance in Still Alice.
Moore is unfortunately laughable as a sinister witch — wearing goth makeup, metal-claw gloves, and a cape comprised of leftover feathers from Angelina Jolie’s Maleficent costume — in this incoherent fantasy adventure filled with swordplay, sorcery, and supernatural nonsense.
The medieval story follows Gregory (Jeff Bridges), a wise old spook who has become largely ostracized for his belief in evil forces. However, his stance is validated when a chameleonic witch known as Mother Malkin (Moore) escapes from her imprisonment aiming for world domination and revenge on Gregory, all upon the arrival of the next full moon.
So Gregory recruits an apprentice (Ben Barnes), chosen because he’s the seventh son of a seventh son, the significance of which never quite becomes clear. After some physical training and explanations of tapestries and talismans, along with the introduction of an alluring love interest (Alicia Vikander) harboring some potentially devastating secrets, a final showdown looms.
If Moore can be accused of slumming for a paycheck here, then Bridges is just as guilty. He mumbles his dialogue and does his best Obi-Wan Kenobi impersonation, complete with woolen cloak, while spouting pearls of wisdom such as, “When you live in the dark, the dark gets in you.” He even wrestles with an oversized bear.
Indeed, the anonymous dragons and demons are the most interesting characters in the screenplay by Charles Leavitt (Blood Diamond) and Steven Knight (Eastern Promises), which is based on a series of novels by British author Joseph Delaney. It features lazy plotting and obvious twists practically presented like a checklist.
Russian director Sergei Bodrov (Mongol) tries to spice things up visually with a series of elaborate fight sequences that rely heavily on shape-shifting creatures and 3D special effects, but even those look cheap and derivative, as though some post-production tinkering took place.
Any rooting interest in the outcome has been jettisoned long before the underwhelming climax, which makes a transparent attempt to set up a sequel. If that happens, at least it can’t be any worse.