Welcome to Thursday Trailer Face-Off, a feature in which we cast a critical eye on two similar upcoming film releases, pitting them against each other across a variety of categories to determine which is most deserving of your two hours. This week, Seventh Son vs. Pompeii, two films featuring Kit Harington as not-Jon Snow.
PremiseSeventh Son is based on the first installment of the children’s fantasy novel series The Wardstone Chronicles, The Spook’s Apprentice. Julianne Moore plays a witch named Mother Malkin with a long-standing grudge against John Gregory (Jeff Bridges), a professional fighter-against-evil or “spook” who imprisoned her enturies ago. Now Malkin wants two things: revenge and to reignite the war between humankind and the supernatural world. John’s only hope is to train his new apprentice, British pretty boy Ben Barnes, the seventh son of the seventh son, to fight against her evil. John’s former apprentice, Kit Harington, may or may not have died in some sort of fiery blast. Harington also appears in Pompeii, this time as a slave on a ship bound for Naples who attempts to save his lover Cassia (Emily Browning) and his gladiator best friend from the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius. One of these plotlines is more belieavable than the other, and for once, it’s the one involving volcanoes. Advantage: Pompeii
Jon SnowWhen it comes to movies with a lot of action, snacking on popcorn is a great way to channel nervous energy. However, we think a choice of dark chocolate and a glass of merlot would be more appropriate to complement the scenes in which the delicious Kit Harington—better known as Jon Snow from Game of Thrones—appears as different versions of an idealized youth: the impressionable former apprentice in Seventh Son, and the Kirk Douglas-as-Spartacus, determined slave in Pompeii. While we’re perfectly content with Harington in the former, we can’t ignore his (digitally enhanced?) abs in Pompeii.Advantage: Pompeii
DirectorPaul W. S. Anderson—not to be confused with fellow director Paul Thomas Anderson—adds Pompeii to a science fiction/video-game themed filmography that includes Mortal Kombat, the Resident Evil series, and Alien vs. Predator. Seventh Son director Sergey Bodrov’s CV is mostly in Russian, but the titles in English certainly pop out: such as The Quickie, a movie centering on Russian mobsters; the mystifying A Yakuza’s Daughter Never Cries; and 2007’s Mongol: The Rise of Genghis Khan. Advantage: Tie
History vs. FantasyThe movie version of a book can be a great film in its own right, or it can completely shatter all of those rainy Sunday afternoons curled up in a comfortable chair. Either way, the film version rarely live up to a reader’s expectation. We always feel as though we take away something important from historical films—if not entirely accurate information, at least some solid conversation starters. Advantage: Pompeii
Great ExpectationsWe pity the innocent moviegoer who enters the theater expecting a brief escape from reality and instead exits in a mix of confusion and shame for failing to grasp the plot of a widely-beloved and very lengthy fantasy series. On the other hand, we’re pretty sure we’re up to speed on Pompeii‘s background (a volcano erupted; people got covered in ash). All we have to do is sit back and enjoy the more provocative details that only fiction can bring.Advantage: Pompeii
Aesthetic ChoicesThe first half of the Pompeii trailer teases us with quiet elegance: drifting pieces of ash, the casts of bodies left preserved to eerie ambient music. The second half is filled with gorgeous CGI images of volcanoes erupting, billowing storm clouds, racing carriages, and what appears to be a Trojan War-scale battlefield. While Pompeii is unquestionably epic, Seventh Son‘s conceit is less consistent—it attempts to mitigate the more serious themes of the series (good vs. evil) with artfully-placed wisecracks, which results in Julianne Moore’s Mother Malkin savagely quoting, “They will use you, and they will throw you to the fire,” several minutes before Jeff Bridges makes quip about alcohol in a fairly atrocious British accent (“What does that kill?” “Cowardice.”)Advantage: Pompeii