Epic Fails to Live Up to its Title
Anymore, it’s hard not to be impressed with most of the animation that comes from major studios. Since Pixar raised the bar, others have been playing catch up just to keep pace with the ever-expanding technology in computer animation. The minute details that are painstakingly included, the natural movements of the characters and the spectacular use of color make this a golden age for animation. So, it comes as no surprise that Epic from 20th Century-Fox and Blue Sky Studios is a visual knockout. Focusing on tiny creatures that live in the forest and get around on the backs of hummingbirds among other things, the movie places itself squarely in an environment with the potential to deliver a great many “Oh wow!” moments, which it does. As far as this is concerned, the film is just as good as many of the other genre entries in the last five years.
Too bad its script is behind the curve, as it’s a cobbled together collection of plot devices from other movies and, try as he might, director Chris Wedge fails to generate a sense of urgency in what ultimately plays out like a generic story. Of course, some of the film’s troubles might be attributed to the “too many chefs in the kitchen” theory, as five writers(!) are credited with having worked on the screenplay. It isn’t that the story is weighed down with detail – kids are smart enough to keep up with a multi-layered plot – but there are differing tones at odds here that make for a film that never hits its stride due to its ever-shifting mood.
The film begins, as nearly all tales of this sort must, with a young teenage girl thrust into an unknown environment. In the case of M.K. (voice by Amanda Seyfried) this happens twice – first when she’s forced to go live with her estranged, addled scientist of a dad (Jason Sudeikis) after her mother dies and then when she’s shrunk to the size of an ant and finds herself in Moonhaven, a sub-sub-subsection of our world in which tiny warriors wage a battle to keep our very planet alive. Seems things have aligned in such a way – there’s a full moon during the summer solstice, a once-in-a-century occurrence- that it means that Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles) must choose a successor in the form of a flower bud that will blossom and contain the power to allow the Earth to keep regenerating. Lord Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) of the Rot is none too keen for this to happen as he’d much rather see decay and blight spread so that he might rule what would be left. So, it is his intent to steal the fledgling bud and have it bloom under a dark sky, something the leader of the Queen’s guard, Ronin (Colin Farrell) will stop at nothing to prevent.
Yeah, there’s an awful lot going on here, especially when you throw in the teenage love story that develops between M.K. and Nod (Josh Hutcherson), another warrior of the Green who has yet to find his way. As I say, none of this really matters as the film lacks any zip. It’s as if Wedge and company approached the material as an oft-told tale in which the audience already knows the ending and decided to tell it as imaginatively as possible. Even the smallest viewer will be able to see the path the story is taking and while it’s easy to predict that outcome of most Hollywood-made films these days, there’s little enthusiasm here to make Epic seem like anything special.
That’s not to say there aren’t some highlights along the way. Chris O’Dowd and Aziz Ansari provide wonderful comic relief as the snail Grub and the slug Mub, respectively while a show-stopping sequence towards the end that finds M.K., Ronin and Nod trying to outrun a three-legged dog as it destroys a living room and science lab in the process is a visual tour-de-force. To be sure, Epic will entertain those 10 years old and younger but anyone older than that will be left with the sort of feeling you get after having eaten a horrible meal – you’re still hungry and you’re damned if you know why.
Contact Chuck Koplinski at firstname.lastname@example.org.