Seventh Son (2014)
When darkness falls, the son will rise
Good old swords and sorcery. Yeah, it's unfortunately one of those genres - like hard science fiction - that never seems to do awesome in theaters (with the exception of the Tolkien mega-hits collection). I won't deny some of that comes down to mind-boggling choices from the creators (those Dungeons and Dragons movies, yow!) or maybe unknown actors or just too much exposition to get people to be able to understand what's even going on in the fantasy worlds. To be fair, to make up for those misgivings, a good fantasy flick provides dozens of interesting creatures - the best of which presented in amazing quality effects - and plenty of potential beautiful sets and costumes. Will this entry fall back beyond 7th place, or will it raise up like the sun?
A man is setting up some sort of giant domed cage on a cliff somewhere. We aren't really shown what's in there, but we here a women yelling out in protest from somewhere within as he rides off, leaving the cage-well and its occupant to suffer through a seasonal montage as time etches away to weather and rust. Etches away, that is, until the red moon rises, and whatever inside opens it's scaly eyes and bursts forth from the weakened dome into the sky like a vicious winged lizard it appears to be. We are then introduced to a man trying to summon his master to attend to a matter of "illness" as indicated by the tolling bells audible in the background, but the master is too busy enjoying his drink to seemingly care. A fight breaks out between the master and a random guard-type over his lack of hurry, and after properly trouncing the man with nothing but a booze flagon the master attends to the matter of the tolling bells.
It is there we are introduced to a possessed kid, which the master attends to quickly with some silver in a bag that forces out the possessing culprit - a seemingly dark spirit that manifests as a lady with a rather cruel looking tail. Some words are exchanged, and as the master and his apprentice go on the attack the woman turns into the dreadful dragon-like beast from earlier and fights back. The fight proceeds outside, but it would appear that the two have the upper hand as they go to seal the woman into a cage - only to have her drag in the apprentice at the last second with her tail. After witnessing her kill the apprentice, the master sets her ablaze and prepares to walk away - only to see her break out and fly off.
A guy is running after a deer in the woods, and after throwing a knife at it and missing goes back to tending pigs - only to get a premonition of the future. It's not long before the master shows up at their little residence, looking for the seventh son to become his apprentice. The guy accepts his fate without too much of a fight, but the mother gives her son a necklace charm to remember her by and keep him safe - as mothers do. The guy and his new master then set off to gather some supplies and prepare in short time to journey to the lair of the Queen Witch (dragon-lady from earlier) to destroy her before she can launch her vengeance against mankind and wipe them clean from existence.
The thing that I like about this movie's plot isn't even really it's generic hero's quest mechanic, or the good versus evil with little shades of grey - because to be honest that's nothing out of the ordinary. What I like about it is the method in which it's delivered. See, some movies spend a good deal of time through either narration, written segments, or character mono/dialoguing to spit out exposition. Although it's never really bad to get to be able to learn more about a world that isn't our own, it's also usually accompanied by the plot slowing to a near halt to grind that part out, or making everything feel awkward when a character says something everyone already knows in-screen for the sake of the audience. While there are a few moments in which exposition is delivered, it feels generally kept to a minimum here, allowing the watcher to pick it up as they go - which has the added benefit of giving just a little bit of a mystery to things as you watch.
Beyond that though, the plot is pretty generic - big bad evil witch vs the monster hunter with varying degrees of romance sub-plots and plenty of spots for action scenes. Some of the acting doesn't really fare much better either - probably the saddest part considering it seems like there was a lot of potential for setting up a world for sequels and the likes. Although our aging 'Spook' hero looks like a conquistador he sounds rather much like a wooden board pretending to be Christopher Nolan's Batman. For sure, he delivers some super amusing lines, and it's not quite to the extent that makes you believe he phoned it in or didn't want to be there, but it's no surprise there was no award nominations. Likewise on the other characters - some have glints during the movie that they feel like they might come alive and be something more, but for the most part it's pretty mediocre at best in performances.
If there had to be a shining gem, then leave it to the fantasy elements to be just that. The costumes are wonderful - from being a mix of dark, tribal, and a bit sexy for most the witches to the armor-clad guards who I wish I owned their suits to wear around at whatever local conventions would allow it. In all honesty, the two main heroes have the lamest outfits of the bunch, with the more elaborate being the master with his conquistador face clad in holy grail crusader cloth garb all covered in the typical "good guy" hooded traveling cloak. Still, the baddies do all have a particular flair to them - and that's nice. Beyond just their costumes though, most the witches also seem to be able to perform animalities from Mortal Kombat, transforming themselves into dragons (or a leopard) to do combat and generally ruin people's days. In one particular shining example, the "Master of Blades" appears as a Shiva/Vishnu-like creature with multiple limbs, and it looks quite impressive how it fights in a rather believable manner.
I'd say it's worth a rent for fans of fantasy flicks - particularly ones with magic and monsters. There is some humor in here now and then, although not all of it is that effective, and some pretty well done action sequences as well. Effects hold up better than the acting though, and the plot is mediocre at best - so it's certainly not going to be for everyone.