This movie is based on the first book in Joseph Delaney’s “The Wardstone Chronicles” (“The Last Apprentice” in the US). Anyone hoping for an accurate retelling of “The Spook’s Apprentice” will be greatly disappointed, however, as the film deviates greatly from its source. It does offer a decent fantasy with interesting transformations scenes, a few memorable lines, and nice surround sound.
Jeff Bridges plays Master Gregory, a Spook who recruits Tom Ward (Ben Barnes) after his previous apprentice Billy (Kit Harington) is killed in a fight with the evil Mother Malkin (Julianne Moore). Before Tom leaves with Gregory, his mother Mam (Olivia Williams) gives him a necklace. We eventually learn that the stone within that necklace has the ability to amplify a witch’s power, and that Mam had stolen it from Mother Malkin years before. This theft allowed Gregory to originally trap Malkin.
After Malkin’s sister Bony Lizzie (Antje Traue) discovers the necklace, she and Malkin convince her daughter Alice (Alicia Vikander) to steal it for them, knowing that Tom and Alice have feelings for one another. In the book, Alice had tricked Tom into being the one that frees Mother Malkin. He was instructed to give the witch three cakes over three nights that had been secretly filled with blood. This blood gave Malkin the power to escape her prison. In the movie though, Mother Malkin uses the power of the “Blood Moon” and escapes on her own after years of imprisonment.
Though it is interesting to have the apprentice responsible for Malkin’s release, I preferred the movie’s adaptation better. The movie’s escape not only made Billy more interesting, but it also gave Gregory and Tom a better reason to stick together in the film. I think it also allowed for Malkin and Gregory’s romance to be more meaningful, which is good because I thought the chemistry between Bridges and Moore was decent.
I also preferred the movie’s treatment of Lizzie and Alice’s relationship. Bony benefited from the movie’s changes, and was even deserving of redemption in the end, having done everything because of her love for her daughter—a relationship paralleled by Mam and Tom’s love. Ultimately, love and revenge were big themes in this movie. Much more so than in the book, I think.
And sadly, like the book, there wasn’t really a strong heroic female presence. Mam was the closest thing we had, and she doesn’t have much of a large part in this movie. I would have liked to see more done with Alice. Maybe we can see something in a sequel, though I’m not sure there will be one for this film.
I give Seventh Son 2.2 out of 5. Ultimately, there isn’t much wow in this film to warrant anything more than a one-time view.