Director: Sergei Bodrov
Starring: Jeff Bridges, Ben Barnes, Alicia Vikander, Kit Harington, Olivia WIlliams, Djimon Hounsou, Julianne Moore. USA/UK/Russia 1h 42m
Based on The Spook’s Apprentice by Joseph Delaney
In principle the story is ok, I’m pretty sure the better selling novel by Joseph Delaney is worth a read if fantasy is your thing, but in this bizarre adaptation there’s no longer anything particularly outstanding. Which is totally bizarre as it has all the ingredients, great actors, many who have starred in many fantasy movies, a Russian director, and without prejudice some of the most inventive fantasy movies have come from the region, topped with a lavish story, this should have blown many pairs of socks off, but it could barely figure out how to put them on.
Opening at a weird stage in the story, we see a man locking away a screaming woman in a remote hold in a vacant landscape, is alludes to this being the outcome of an epic battle between Mother Malkin (Moore) an evil witch and Gregory (Bridges) a member of a knightly order called the Falcons who dedicate their lives defending mankind from supernatural threats.
Years later, a young man, Tom Ward (Banes) begins a bizarre apprenticeship with master Gregory, who’s still heavily into the beating the shit out of mythical creatures business, but now his knightly status has dwindled into the meager title of “Spook”, hunters of witches. Bridges is a brilliant actor who has only gotten better with age, but I really thought he had goofed off on this character, as if he could sense this was a big of tripe and was literally taking the piss by pulling lots of ridiculous faces. So a slightly older Percy Jackson character, Tom, struggles to keep up with this new world around him, but he’s protected by amulets and it’s clear that he’s living out his destiny, yadda yadda. The Evil witch queen, Malkin isn’t really all that frightening in the big scheme of things, I’d definitely rank Maleficent, Queen Bavmorda and even that crazy witch bitch from Suspiria (1977) above her, but I reckon she’s a tad bit more dangerous than Angelica Huston in the Witches (1990), but only just! There’s a bit of Lore thrown around about Seventh Sons (duh), and people hanging around for Blood Moons, but not a lot has to be achieved, it all fits into place without trying, there’s not epic journey like Lord of the Rings (2001), or violent revenge and strife like Conan (1982). it all just happens, the great adversary is more between Gregory and Malkin, while wee Tom spends most of his time falling in love with the enemy, the addition of a teen romance really didn’t give the film any more credibility.
So Malkin was imprisoned for 15 years and now she’s out and taking names, mostly she just strolls about her magnificent Moroccan themed castle while her minions appear from nowhere and start taking revenge on the lords and kings who are known for burning witches. I feel that this character really could have done a bit more than wait.
There’s so much done “for a show” that does not’ add to the story or enhance the characters, some of them are pretty fancy though, a multi armed Hindu god like creature, and everyone else just morphs into a beast of some sort, none heavily connected with mythology that we know, Moore’s performance is pretty stoic but when she lets rip I pretty much laughed out loud, she was a really poor choice for this powerful and energetic role, she has an awesome bone like scorpion tale but it’s more of an accessory. The lead is anything buy,
If visual effects make a movie great for you then this is something that will wow you, there’s impressive stunts, a fair amount of dynamic fight scenes with beasts and monsters, troll diving and more but in terms of a hero story, it’s pretty weak but this is coming from someone who adores Conan and Wolfhound and easily consider them some of the greatest Fantasy movies of all time, this is just another flavor of fantasy, more accessible but incredibly dull and little emotion.
R: Conan (1982), Volkodav iz roda Serykh Psov / Wolfhound (2006), Lord of the Rings (2001)
L: A-Z of Fantasy Movies