Epic is a forgettable, but still somewhat fun animated adventure.
Blue Sky is not exactly the most successful animation studio in the world, but it has had its share of successes, beginning with the release of Ice Age. With Horton Hears a Who and Rio, Blue Sky has recently been a bigger hit with critics than in the past, also raking in billions of box office dollars in the process. They are hoping to replicate that critical and commercial prosperity with Epic, an ambitious fantasy adventure from the mind of William Joyce (his books also inspired Robots, Meet the Robinsons and Rise of the Guardians). With that in mind, does Epic ultimately prove to be a good change of pace for Blue Sky Studios?
Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried), a teenager close to adulthood, visits her estranged and oddball father Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) after her mother’s passing. He is a scientist who lost his family, job and credibility after he began to search for a tiny kingdom living in the surrounding forest. M.K. – her self-proclaimed nickname – asks her father to stop his work so that he can start over and help to fix their relationship, but to no avail. At this point, she decides to leave her father and return home to the city, but along the way she stumbles upon Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles), the kind and gentle ruler of the forest. As the queen is dying, she gives M.K. a magical pod with the potential of restoring balance to the forest, also shrinking her down to a miniscule size in the process. Soon after encountering two of the soldiers known as Leaf-Men, a commander named Ronin (Colin Farrell) and a rookie named Nod (Josh Hutcherson), M.K. gets dragged into a ecological war in which a race known as the Boggans seeks to the destroy the forest. With the impending war, M.K. and the others realize that they must escort the pod to its proper place before the desecration of the entire woodland takes place.
Essentially, if you tossed in dashes of Avatar, Princess Mononoke, Fern Gully and The Borrowers into a cinematic blender, you would get this movie. That’s not to say that Epic is a bad film, it’s just not a great one either since it treads much ground already covered by numerous other similar films. Epic doesn’t live up to its title in that sense, for aside from being derivative of other works it is also very calculated, clichéd and predictable. What also surprised me about this film is that the writers don’t take much advantage of the ecological aspect of the story. The conflict between the protective and destructive forces of nature isn’t utilized in any subtle manner other than a simple good vs. evil dichotomy, so it makes Epic less compelling and interesting than it could have been. Still, this is harmless family entertainment that will certainly hold your children’s attention for 100 minutes. It is entertaining enough for adult audiences as well, for it still has fun – albeit few – action scenes, likeable characters and heart. Epic also has moments of genuine emotion, while the story also speaks certain truths on the topic of faith, even if they may not be used in a religious context.
Epic certainly has a talented voice cast, especially when it comes to the comic talent involved. Amanda Seyfried is the headliner, and she is serviceable in the role, but she doesn’t bring any nuance or artifice to her voice work. The same goes for her male counterpart Josh Hutcherson, who does a decent enough job in his role but still does not reach the same level as some of his other performances. Colin Farrell is great in Epic though, for he gives the right amount of emotion and hardness as to make Ronin the most memorable character in the film. The rest of the cast of Epic does well enough, but the sad thing is that the script’s humor doesn’t quite match up. Considering that Aziz Ansari, Jason Sudeikis and Colin Farrell are all great with comedy, it’s truly embarrassing that the humor in this film generally fell flat, even for the kids in the screening I went to. Christoph Waltz is great as the villain though, for he manages to overcome his one-dimensional character by injecting a voice that is menacing and simultaneously entertaining. I wouldn’t expect any less from a two-time Oscar winner, but he does quite a fine job in Epic.
If it’s any consolation on Blue Sky’s part, Epic is a great-looking animated film. There are some questionable textures here and there, but otherwise the shots are well-composed, dynamic and ambitiously cinematic. Blue Sky did a marvelous job at making the world of Epic a vibrant, colorful environment that is also tangible and believable. There is also a nice fluidity to the film, for Epic seamlessly flows from one scene to the next, keeping the pace strong. Danny Elfman is the composer for this film, and he does a fine enough job injecting some emotion into the proper moments in the story. However, I was personally annoyed by his score at times since it seemed to mimic themes from Patrick Doyle’s score for Brave.
I have never been a fan of Blue Sky’s work, and with that in mind Epic did nothing to sway me in their favor. Their latest film borrows too much from other fantasy works, and the story is predictable, clichéd and surprisingly unfunny for a movie that is obviously trying to be comedic. Nonetheless, Epic still has enough heart and fun scenes to be a decent family film. Just don’t expect this animated extravaganza to actually live up to its name.