GREG: (Greg Smith, Founder of Agile Writers of Richmond, VA) Indeed we did, and Id say it was neither a good Epic nor a good fantasy. Lets recap.
SCOTT: The movie begins with a young woman, Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried), visiting her eccentric father who lives and works deep in a remote forest. We learn that Mary Katherine (who prefers the initials MK) has a rocky relationship with her dad, whose obsession with finding a civilization of tiny creatures in the forest caused his marriage to fail and his family relationships to suffer. One day MK ventures into the forest and inadvertently stumbles upon Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles), the tiny monarch of all life in the woodlands. Tara has been mortally wounded but lives long enough to shrink MK down to size and assign MK the task of bringing a magic pod to a showy glowworm named Nim Galuu (Steven Tyler).
GREG: MK is aided by brash young Nod (Josh Hutcherson) who is one of the soldiers of the Leaf Brigade. He suffers from being too independent. He is unable to follow orders given by troop leader Ronin (Colin Farrell) and marches to his own drum. This makes Nod a bit untrustworthy. Also, along for the ride, are Mub and Grub (Aziz Ansari, Chris ODowd), two slugs who offer comic relief. Together they must battle the forces of decay (the Boggans) who are constantly trying to kill off all living vegetation. Their goal is to prevent MK and friends from delivering the magic pod to Nim Galuu who will then use the pod to select a new queen and usher in another 100 years of bountiful forest living.
SCOTT: Well, Greg, based on what you said at the outset of this review, I m almost afraid to say, without ducking for cover, that I thought this movie was good. Now keep in mind I make this positive assessment knowing that the film is intended for a young audience. I would say the target audience is roughly 5 to 12-year-olds. Is this a movie for adults? Probably not, but adults can certainly enjoy the absolutely stunning animations.
GREG: Scott, Ill give you the visuals. Producers Blue Sky Studios (of Ice Age fame) did a great job of creating a spectacular forest and articulated characters of all sorts. If all you want is a pretty picture, then you wont be disappointed by Epic. However, as you say, this is a film for youngsters and as such it glosses over some important story elements. For example, the story doesnt explain what happened to MKs mother or Nod s father. But as adults we know that they have died. I am OK with glossing over these details for younger children. However, many scenes in this movie are very scary, dark and deal with death directly. Characters are killed off right before our eyes. Hiding off-screen parental death but showing on-screen death is an incongruity that I cant reconcile.
SCOTT: Greg, this incongruity didn t bother me, perhaps because I didn t see much of one. Yes, the screenwriters omit the details of the death of MK s mom and Nod s dad. It s a kids movie and we don t need to get too nitty gritty there. And you re right that many of the bad guys are pierced by flying arrows, but these deaths are shown antiseptically with no sign of pain or blood. (Strangely enough, the good guys never seem to die or get hurt, with the exception of Queen Tara). So I think it s largely a non-issue. I stand by my opinion that the movie, overall, offers up an exemplary hero story. Consider the character of MK, the films hero. She is strong, courageous female lead character who serves as a great role model to boys and girls alike. She displays nearly all of the characteristics of a great hero courage, intelligence, resilience, selflessness, kindness, and inspiration. As you know, female heroes are rare in the movies and so I truly welcome this film s portrayal of her as a heroic figure.
GREG: Ill grant you that MK is a good hero, but I wish she were less of a damsel in distress. Most of the action scenes are stolen by the men doing the fighting and MK clutching the magic pod. Compare MK to Mirada from last years Brave. Mirada did the actual fighting in that film. MK by contrast appears to be the custodian of a magical pod - Ill let you read the metaphor there. I also had trouble with the basic premise of good and evil in this film. Apparently the forest is the battlefield of the constant struggle between the forces of decay and the forces of life. That is, the forces of decay (the Boggans) are constantly trying to kill off the forces of life (the Leaf People). Fairy tales and myth are stories that explain the world we live in - as metaphor. I could follow the life-giving characters in the story. But I didn t recognize the Boggans as elements of decay. You can easily point to the forces of life (trees, grass, birds, insects) but I just dont understand where a child might go into the forest and point to the forces of decay.
SCOTT: It seemed to me that the filmmakers were attempting to anthropomorphize the time-honored struggle between the forces of good and the forces of evil. And because we re in a forest setting, this struggle is portrayed as the battle between those seeking to preserve lush green plantlife versus those seeking to destroy it. I m not sure why, but I did buy into the fantasy. I will concede to you that MK is portrayed, at times, as dependent on the Leaf Men for protection. But there are also plenty of scenes where she performs impressive physical feats to escape trouble, and let s not forget the clever clue that she leaves her father which ultimately saves the world. MK rocks as a hero. One of the delights of Epic is its large array of colorful supporting characters. There is the father, the love interest, the queen, the magic seer, the leader of the Leaf Men, and a bevy of sidekicks including a couple of lovable bi-optic slugs. There are also the villainous Boggans, led by the evil Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) and his own nefarious sidekick. Most of these characters really grew on me -- although I confess that the slugs wore out their welcome rather quickly.
GREG: We agree on that last point. The slugs were poor comic relief. I found myself wishing for the likes of Timone and Pumba from Disneys The Lion King. I was very disappointed in this film. It has been advertised for nearly a year at our local theater and I was expecting good things. I felt it was too violent and dark for younger viewers. I didnt like the struggle between decay and life. I feel that Epic is the Fern Gully for a new generation - without the political overtones. I can only give it 2 Reels out of 5. While the hero characters are mythic (including a nice atonement with the father ) I dont think they were the focus of the film - the artistry seemed to be central here. I give Epic 3 out of 5 Heroes. Movie: Heroes:
SCOTT: Epic achieves its goal of providing 100 minutes of solid entertainment for children. It does so by serving up a classic and fun-filled hero story that features nearly all of the elements of the hero s journey, such as the hero s call to adventure, her entry into a dangerous new world, her search for something missing in her life, her encounter with helpers along the way plus a love interest, her recovery of what was missing, and her return to her original world. These key hero elements, plus the remarkable animations, earn the film 3 Reels out of 5. (I would give it 4 Reels if I were a child). From my perspective, the outstanding story of a young woman setting out to develop a relationship with her father earns the movie 4 Heroes out of 5. Movie: Heroes:
The plot is pretty unoriginal really and we've similar stories in other films. A young girl is shrunken down to the size of a bug and is accidentally throw into a bug sized war between human-like warriors and orc-like creatures. All of this takes place within a regular forest in the regular world near the young girls house. So basically its a bug war kicking off in your back garden right under your nose.
Not quite sure why the film is called 'Epic' when the book isn't but there you go, I guess because of the scale of the war going on? Anywho I'm gonna come right out say I really liked this film, I dug it, its totally cliched and completely formulaic but it works well. Pretty much all the characters are likeable and well rounded, again most of them we've seen before in other animated films, nothing too special about talking snails, slugs, flies etc...its been done, but it looks good and is nicely amusing at times.
This is the main focal point of the film, the visuals. Like many animated films these days it looks tremendous I kid you not, both worlds we see, human and bug, are awesome in spectacle. When we are introduced to the bug sized world its one of those moments when you say to yourself 'I could live there, I want to live there, it looks fun'. Everything looks so lush and green, so vibrant and colourful, its really gorgeous and such an eye opener. On the flip side the baddie bug sized world is also awesome in its murky, rotten, dark, fungi, dead tree filled way, not exactly ground breaking stuff though.
These visuals also extend to the characters, the good guys are a green armour clad humanoid warrior race called Leaf Men. Now this guys look so flipping cool, their armour is a lovely leaf plated design with intricate pattern etched into the plates, they carry swords, wear gladiator style helmets and ride on the back of green/blue hummingbirds, their steeds of choice. They basically look like eco warrior samurai and their leader voiced nicely by Colin Farrell is called 'Ronin', which of course you all know is another word for samurai (without a master). The Irish samurai.
There are also you're standard sidekick type creatures as with any animated kids flick. Here they are nothing original in the form of a snail and a slug but I gotta give kudos to the voice actors because these two guys are very amusing, and kinda adorable looking. They have an awesome amount of detail on them though, really look good.
The bad guys are kinda like orcs I guess although their heads look a bit like a sharks head, they are called Boggans. They are you're typical baddies, they don't talk they just grunt n roar, they are drab coloured and all look the same. But there are various types of bad guys, basically any creature or bug that you would deem scary or has a bad reputation is classed as a bad guy. Bullfrogs, mosquitoes, spiders, crows, bats etc...all baddies. On the flip side you have various creatures that are classed as goodies like snails, slugs, glowworms, hummingbirds etc...There are also various plant/flower creatures in the form of Daisy's, Thistles, Dandelions etc...most of these makeup background characters.
One thing, all the characters in this are errr...white people, accept for the Queen, who is black, why? Just seemed rather odd to me to have just one character stand out from the rest like that. Unfortunately the Queen is voiced badly by Beyoncé Knowles which doesn't help either, just doesn't sound right or match her character at all.
In all honesty the film is all about the visuals as the plot is highly generic. You know what's gonna happen as we've seen this type of thing a gazillion times over. The main female character is cute looking and does everything as you would expect, although she takes to this new world pretty quickly, I'm sure most would be freaked out for ages. Much like the main villain who also does everything you would expect and gets his comeuppance predictably. Its all very light vs dark, all the goodies are colourful and bright, all the baddies are dark, gloomy and shadowy.
So yeah its all very obvious but its still a fun time with some stunning visuals. The finale is quite epic in scale and does lock you in for sure, does seem to be copying 'Star Wars' a wee bit but hey its cool. The film does slyly use other film influences throughout no doubt. Steve Tyler's glowworm character does seem to have been plucked from 'Alice in Wonderland' if you ask me, Tyler's vocals also sound like they have been plucked from said Disney film spookily, good voice work actually, surprising.
I think you can tell from what I've written here this is a character based flick, there are many other fun characters in here also. Fun characters, well crafted details and overall delicious visuals, shame about the by the numbers story line...but still fun!