Fantasy/Adventure, 102 Minutes, 2014
I’ll happily admit that I’ve got a soft spot for dragons (and dungeons) and sorcery (and swords). Whenever a new fantasy film is announced, I turn back into my twelve-year old self and start looking around for my dog-eared Monster Manual. I’m often disappointed. Still, even a bad fantasy movie is usually a pretty good time.
This one starts off well. The queen of witches, Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore [IMDB]), has escaped imprisonment by her former lover, the now aged but still capable, Master Gregory (Jeff Bridges [IMDB]). He’s one of the last “Spooks”, an ancient order of monster hunters. After a disastrous encounter with Mother Malkin, he’s in the marke for a new apprentice. Tom (Ben Barnes [IMDB]), the seventh son of a seventh son, fits the bill perfectly. Also, witches are dragons, because dragons are… witches?
The story could be told on half of a “ViewMaster reel”. The grumpy old mentor grumpily trains the naive young mentee to take on the evil that he failed to vanquish in his youth. He’s harsh and inscrutable, so the youth doubts himself, rebels and leaves. Something tragic happens and he returns just in time to save the day and fulfill his big “D” destiny. Original, it ain’t.
Yet it is fun – and surprisingly charming – in its own silly kind of way. The cast is better than the story deserves and they clearly had fun with it. There’s something entrancing about seeing a great actor hamming it up, and both Moore and Bridges come through in spades. The effects rely entirely too heavily on mediocre CGI, but the action is loud and brash enough to distract from it.
It’s unoriginal, clichéd and trite. It’s also fun and easy on the audience and has dragons (even if it shoehorns them in). It delivers every single thing it ever promised; nothing more or less. When was the last time a movie did that?