Saturday started big at Comic-Con this year when Jeff Bridges led the Seventh Son panel in Hall H. Warners and Legendary made it clear that this was going to be a big deal, unveiling an extra two huge screens for wraparound film goodness. "It's chock full of myth - you guys like that?" said Bridges. "I haven't seen a movie like this since I was about 10."
The footage, cut together especially for Comic-Con, was visually utterly stunning: even by the standards of fantasy films these days, the design here is rather gorgeous. It also hinted at a nice mix of humour and weight; Jeff Bridges' Master Gregory, chewing words like he's chewing toffee, has a tragic past and a weight on his shoulders, but is also something of a buffoon, and gets lots of one-liners. "That's disgusting, what does this kill?" asks his apprentice Tom (Ben Barnes), swigging from a flask. "Cowardice," gruffs Gregory in reply.
Barnes also asks, "This says there are a thousand of you," says Tom of a tapestry. "There were. They died," replies Gregory.
One scene we saw quite a bit of was a fight with a boggart, in this world a hulking great troll-like creature. "How do we fight it?" yells Barnes. "We don't!" says Bridges, running for his life. They escape into a cave which opens onto a ledge over a lake; jumping for it, they think they're safe because boggarts don't like water. Only - of course - this one is an exception.
There are glimpses of Julianne Moore's Mother Malkin, slinking about in corsets and turning into a giant monster; Antje Traue plays her sidekick, Bony Lizzie; Alicia Vikander is the innocent caught between them. Kit Harrington also appears in a rather spoilerific way as Master Gregory's first apprentice, who has one very exciting sequence involving the exorcism of a young woman that ends up with him fighting a monster to a possibly tragic outcome (hey, he might not be dead! But things looked bad for him).
Bridges also gets some sword-fighting and fisticuffs. "It was kind of tough but it was fun too. It gets back to being a kid. Remember being 10? You get all the kit and the gear and people show you all the moves. It's great. The trick with these big movies is marrying the CGI - the green screen and leotards - with actually practical amazing things. We did a lot of that in this film."
"Unlike Antje I didn't have to fight in a feathery dress," laughed Barnes. "As Jeff was saying we had a wonderful stunt team who choreographed the sequences. We were fighting with staffs and knife-throwing, and bringing in alchemy and magic, so it's a little different. The real challenges were things like - in the script it would say, "Tom climbs a metal chain to the rafters" and you don't realise how slippy that's going to be. The harder thing for me is trying to keep track of where you are in the story, and luckily we had a great director like Sergey."
"For me," said Bridges, "All of us up here are storytellers, so the big challenge for me was telling the story. Sergey and I talked about it quite a bit, and I ran across a wonderful quote that kept me on track, man, it was one of his countrymen, Solzenitzyn. I was hoping we would serve this passage. 'If only it were so simple. If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were only necessary to separate them from ourselves and destroy them. But the line between good and evil runs through every human being, and who is willing to cut off a piece of his own heart?' Yeah? How bizarre in this cruel world that human beings have been given this evolutionary gift of imagination, and we can use this imagination to dream of peace, which is kind of a bizarre thing. That's my task as a filmmaker to make stories about this dream of peace. It's a story we need to tell again and again. That was the most challenging thing, to keep on the line of telling that story."
Ladies and gentlemen, the Dude abides! Seventh Son hits screens early in 2014.