EPIC Review

I won't lie when I say there was no real reason for me to see epic. I don't have children and I'm not necessarily an animation junkie, but I don't mind trying out the latest computer animated films as more times than not they have a certain high degree of quality to them despite their markets current over-saturation. Besides epic, which has the distinction and the advantage of opening the summer movie season for the kiddos, we have the annual Disney Pixar offering which this year is a prequel to one of my favorites of theirs, Monsters Inc. as well as the sequel to 2009's surprise animated hit from Illumination Entertainment Despicable Me which could end up wiping the floor with Dreamworks Turbo that opens a few weeks after Gru and his minions no doubt dominate the fourth of July weekend. And while epic will seemingly only be on the same quality level as that forgotten before it gets here Ryan Reynolds vehicle it still has some good qualities going for it. With epic, Blue Sky studios (the Ice Age films, Rio) has delivered a completely creative and imaginative world of characters that suffer only from the lack of originality that is delivered through its story. This may be due to the fact that five different writers collaborated on the screenplay or simply because when you break it down to its simplest form it is as classic a tale of good vs. evil as there ever could be. I don't mind this because it has a few other layers that make the story a little more engaging if not being a little too subtle for the target audience. Still, despite the fact that epic is sometimes unintentionally funny when at its most serious and often can feel like a direct to video feature, it looks like a big studio film and has enough creative juices flowing in its character and production designs that we can forgive it's laziness in terms of story, for the most part.        

Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) and M.K. (Amanda Seyfried) only need to look to their backyard for adventure.
Director Chris Wedge who was at the helm of the original Ice Age as well as the underrated 2005 Robots has definitely seen a progression in the studios animation techniques since their first film. Technically, epic is as the title would have you believe. The vastness of the forest is created with lush color variations and attention to the detail in the most common of things we all recognize but hardly take the time to stop and notice in the real world. As I said, this makes up for a good amount of distraction when it comes to the simple story that combines elements of The Spiderwick Chronicles, Fern Gully, and Aladdin. When Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried) or M.K. as she likes to be called returns to live with her father after her mother dies (the first of many animation story staples) she discovers he is still the way he was when her mother left him. Her father, Bomba (voiced by Jason Sudeikis), lives out in the middle of nowhere and has set up cameras throughout the forest in front of his house as he believes there to be an advanced civilization of little people living within them that he is on the cusp of discovering. Naturally, M.K. thinks he's nuts until she accidentally stumbles upon the queen of the forest, Queen Tara (Beyonce Knowles) who tasks M.K. with delivering a pod to the rightful place so that the forest may live on in peace and the threat of the baddies known as Boggans and led by Mandrake (a clear Christoph Waltz) might be stopped. M.K. joins forces with the leader of the Leafmen aka the soldiers of the forest, Ronin (Colin Farrell doing his first voice work) along with Nod (Josh Hutcherson) an independent mind who leaves the life of a soldier to do what he desires. Let us not also forget the comic relief of Mub and Grub (Aziz Ansari and Chris O'Dowd) who are not in the film enough yet serve as another animated story staple who get drug along on the main adventure through forced circumstances.

When first seeing the trailers for epic what feels like forever ago now, I assumed this would in fact be some type of green peace tale about the forest and how humans take nature for granted and need to be reminded of how precious these components in our world truly are. In some ways this could still be true as the case could be made the leafmen represents the thriving wildlife and unseen miracles that occur everyday in nature while the Boggans are the decay that eats away at nature whether it be man made or not (the fact the animators made these creatures look like a kind of deformed creature but not necessarily one that exists in the real world could easily be stating the threat could come from anywhere). While unlike Fern Gully the humans involved in this story or not the main antagonists. Instead they are the key to the good guys being successful and serve to re-enforce the films other main theme of cherishing the parent/child relationship. Whether it be in the strained relationship of M.K. and her father, the cautious Ronin looking after the hard to handle Nod in light of his father and Ronin's best friends death, or even Mandrake and his son Dagda (Blake Anderson of Workaholics) who have a loyal relationship that is torn apart early in the film. These relationship studies are never delved into as much as they certainly could have been, but they create a nice throughline of theme that are neatly resolved in the end. What is fascinating (and I use that word lightly) about the film is its ability to explore the always interesting questions children ask themselves about what is going on right in there back yard and how expansive it can become with the right imagination. Though ideally, the film would have delivered what a brighter imagination might have come up with, the final product doesn't result in anything beyond average and I believe that would be true even in the eyes of the children this is supposed to be impressing. The beauty of the visuals and creativity of the world can only push things so far before they become nothing more than a hollow shell with nothing spectacular or different to say.

The band of characters in epic seem interesting, but tell a rather stale story. 
Yet while there is nothing here that is particularly groundbreaking epic does provide a few bits of solid humor that has a clear voice from the start with a random taxi driver, goes through to the perspective of M.K. in the world of the forest people and how they see the humans, and not to mention a gag with a fly that's absolutely classic. Then there is the interesting case of a character named Nim Galuu as voiced by Steven Tyler who isn't the character I expected him to be when we first hear whisperings of his existence. Instead we get a goofy if not slightly charismatic worm of a character that has the flamboyancy of Tyler himself and only after realizing the consequences of the situation around him becomes more of that wise old father character than the crazy uncle. It was unexpected, but probably the most surprising thing about the whole flick. The rest of the character interactions are played out just as we'd expect with almost too many of them for us to ever really get invested in who the important people are supposed to be. The inevitable romance between Nod and M.K. seems an afterthought as it only really begins to sprout about an hour into the film and more than anything reminded me of a less charming Aladdin/Jasmine tale. Nod is supposed to be our hero and main protagonist, but as he is written as the underdog who comes to the rescue only in the final moments of desperation we appreciate Colin Farrell's Ronin moreso throughout. I understand where the filmmakers are coming from, even if Nod isn't that likable underdog the makers would like to have us believe. If you're heading into this for your pop stars be warned as both Pitbull and Beyonce make limited appearances and while the remainder of the cast including Farrell and Waltz do fine enough work it is slightly distracting at the same time because it is so clearly these voices we all know and can associate too well. The one performance I was genuinely surprised by and enjoyed the most was that of Sudeikis' as he didn't simply sound like Jason Sudeikis but actually created a voice that catered to the character he was bringing life to which in turn might be the most heroic thing anyone in this supposed epic actually did.


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