Midweek Movie Review: Epic (3D)
As of late, animated films seem to be going for the shock and awe effect. Following DreamWorks Animation’s The Croods, Epic is the second CGI-animated movie of 2013 to place emphasis on awestruck adventure, with both the characters and audience exploring a dazzling new world for the first time together. Certainly in this aspect, the latest from Blue Sky Studios – the same company behind the Ice Age films and Rio – lives up to its name. Epic is a visual treat. At the same time though, there’s the sense that the film is trying to be too many things for too many audiences, and would have benefited from a more consistent tonal focus. As it is, it feels a bit scattered and emotionally blunted as a result.
Loosely based on the book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs by William “Rise of the Guardians” Joyce, Epic at first glance seems to be a FernGully clone. After the death of her mother, seventeen year old Mary Katherine (voiced by Amanda Seyfried) visits her eccentric estranged father (Jason Sudeikis), who destroyed his marriage and career in the pursuit of a minuscule race of forest-dwelling warriors who nobody else believes exists. As it happens, Mary Katherine finds herself shrunk down and united with these warriors – the Leafmen – in their quest to defend the natural world against the pestilence-spreading Mandrake (an excellent, menacing Christoph Waltz) and his army of Boggans.
If you haven’t seen the trailer for Epic, and go into the cinema fresh, you’ll probably be more wowed by the film. If you have seen the trailer, there are still fortunately enough unspoiled moments to enjoy. Epic is a truly stunning film that excels during its minutely choreographed action sequences. The movie also features a smattering of memorably loveable characters like overenthusiastic, one-eyed pug Ozzie and Chris O'Dowd’s slug, who dreams of becoming a Leafman. It doesn’t hurt either that the film’s heroine manages to stay very likeable – sassy without ever slipping into annoying territory.
Epic hits enough dramatic high notes to keep viewers engaged, but it also feels like the film has tried to stuff in too many disparate plot elements and ingredients. Beyoncé Knowles’s voice doesn’t fit with the rest of the film, and there’s even a lone musical number that comes out of nowhere. Also the film seems more intent on referencing other “epic” adventures than actually establishing its own identity – you’re really not paying attention if moments reminiscent of The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars and Avatar don’t jump out at you.
As for watching Epic in 2D or 3D (if you’re lucky enough to have the choice!), the film doesn’t have any specifically standout 3D moments. This said, the format consistently enhances the visuals, meaning the extra ticket expense doesn’t feel like a waste at all.
In the end, Epic is a perfectly watchable animated adventure for the whole family. It doesn’t have the charm or surprises of Wreck-It Ralph (my review), for example, but it’s entertaining enough. There’s nothing to really traumatise young children, while adults can appreciate 100 minutes of intricately crafted eye candy that never insults the intelligence.
3.5 stars out of 5.
This review originally appeared online at The Movies.