Sep 30, 2013

[Movies] Epic (2013)

I have to admit that it's certainly a good thing how various movie studios are able to dig up interesting source material to adapt into film, something especially true for various children's movies. The world of young adult fiction is certainly rich with lots of great stories that deserve to be told anew and movies have become an interesting medium for such stories.

While I've never read the book that Epic was based on and I probably would have never encountered it on my own. But because it was even just loosely adapted into a CGI animated movie, at least we all get to have a taste of what the story was like. And sure, movie to book translations never capture everything that was originally in the book, even for relatively shorter young adult novels, but the end result is still an interesting adventure in itself.

The movie features a rather surprising cast in terms of notable talent, although it didn't exactly do all that well at the box office during its initial run. Beyond the story though, I have to admit that the movie was most beautifully done.

Synopsis: Epic is a 2013 CGI animated movie relatively based on the William Joyce novel The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs. It was directed by Chris Wedge, who had also directed Ice Age and Robots.

We first meet Mary Katherine or M.K. (Amanda Seyfried), who is moving back in with her rather eccentric scientist father Professor Boomba (Jason Sudeikis). Their family relationship has become rather estranged over the years given his obsession with proving his theory about a secret society of tiny people living in the forest. M.L. is hoping to reconnect with her father and to get him to give up his research in order to focus on being a father again.

But the society society of sorts does exist and the forest is filled with tiny people who are in a constant struggle to protect the forest from the Boggans, who are determined to spread rot and decay. And at this time, Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles) is about to select a new a heir. But the ceremony is disrupted by an Boggan attack led by Mandrake (Christoph Waltz). Ronin (Colin Farrell) and his loyal Leafmen manage to protect the pod that the queen had selected, but were not able to save the Queen herself. But before she dies, she manages to pass the charge of protecting the pod to M.K. and magically shrinking her down to their size. Now M.K. is thrust into the world of the Leafmen and the other people of the forest and must find a way to safeguard the pod and eventually find her way home.

First and foremost, the movie is beautifully animated through and through. Whether we're talking about the initial sequences setting up the world of the Leafmen or the various large scale battle sequences between the Leafmen and the Boogans, everything is a visual spectacle. That's a credit to both the folks who actually worked on the animations and the vision that choreographed the various scenes and brought them to life. As much as the battles between the forces of evil do get rather, well, epic, the fact that they are all made to blend into the forest in one way or another helps drive the mythos that most humans miss all that is going on. The animation presents this reality very well in how fluid all the movement is and how quickly characters can fade back into the forest when needed.

The story isn't all that complex though - and this is where it being a children's movie really comes tot he fore. The character goals are clear enough and as you reach the end of one "quest", you're guaranteed to be given the next steps to reach the end. Thus the only conflict involves the actual battles and not so much internal character drama or things of that nature.

Take for example M.K. - her main issue with her father was how he ignored his family in favor of what she thought was a fool's errand of a scientific project. But the moment she's shrunk down to Leafmen size, then she can't ignore the fact that her father's research was relevant and thus there's really not much left for her to be mad about. Ronin is constantly at odds with young Leafman Nod (Josh Hutcherson), but the two eventually make up in the movie because there's really nothing left to do. The snails provided the obligatory comic relief characters but their antics didn't integrate too well into the overall story.

We tend to praise movies coming from Pixar and Dreamworks given how well they balance their writing to appeal to audiences of all ages. For this Fox Animation project, that balance is sorely lacking and thus we have a movie that works decently well for children but provides little for older audiences to truly enjoy. At the most at least you can sit back and enjoy how visually beautiful the movie is and leave it at that.

Epic is a decent enough movie that had a story to tell and a key audience that it wanted to tell this story to. While I wish they had found a way to make the narrative scope more expansive, at least the story still works. Thus the movie rates a respectable 3.5 massive fight sequences out of a possible 5, mainly on visual effects alone.

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