wogma rating: Watch when on TV/online (?)
Despite terrific animation, Epic, directed by Chris Wedge, fails to make for a truly compelling watch because the story just doesn’t pack enough of a punch. Hardcore animation fans could consider watching it for the animation alone. The rest would be better off catching something like Ice Age on DVD.Read more
With some of the most stunning visuals and gorgeously executed animation you’ll see, you’d think that the makers of Epic would perhaps invest a tad bit more in the writing to ensure that the film becomes a memorable experience for the viewer. Sadly enough, that isn’t the case. So, while you’re always enjoying the animation part of the film, you’re also always conscious of how the film isn’t nearly exciting enough to be truly hooked by.
Yet another film based on a book, this time on one titled ‘The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs’ by William Joyce, the film is a mixture of a coming-of-age tale, an underdog story, a fantasy adventure and even a tiny little teen romance. It recounts the adventures of Mary Katherine or MK, a teenage girl whose new life in the woods with her formerly estranged father takes a turn for the fantastic when she crosses paths with a group of miniscule warriors called the Leaf Men, who are locked in perpetual war with bug-creatures known as the Boggans.
It becomes quite hard to be truly taken in by a film which you can predict almost every step of the way. MK’s initial apprehensions of moving in with her father, how she encounters the Leaf Men, the path that the story then follows, almost all of it is something that even the least involved of audiences will be able to predict with ease. In fact, if the film wasn’t embellished with the kind of top-notch animation that it is, it would have been downright boring. Even the humour in the film, something that is usually strong in most animations films, is largely insipid and uninspiring.
The film, like a lot of other animation films, does have a message within as well. It talks about the universal conflict between ‘them’ and ‘us’, the divisions that cause a planet that deserves peace, to be in a constant state of flux. It also attempts to play on the age-old emotions of a young man or woman coming of age, rising to the challenge and eventually coming up trumps. Thus, because the film is at heart a clean, honest attempt at a fantasy adventure, it becomes very hard to dismiss it for the many flaws it has.
The film also has an ensemble cast of voices for the characters, though I must confess that one big name in the cast quite disappointed me firstly in choice, and secondly in execution. Amanda Seyfried, who voices MK, does a fairly good job as the girl caught up in a war which she has to fight for her own good, even though it isn’t hers to fight at all. She manages to evoke the right mix of hesitation and confidence through her journey in the film. Colin Farrell as Ronin, the leader of the Leaf Men is excellent as well. It took me a while to wrap my head around the idea that the mature and calming voice I was hearing was that of Farrell.
The big disappointment for me was Christoph Waltz as Mandrake, the leader of the Boggans. Waltz’s voice and accent just didn’t suit the character in the first place. Yet, I expected him to lift it up by his sheer presence, which unfortunately just doesn’t happen. None of the other voices are particularly memorable, save perhaps for Jason Sudeikis, who voices MK’s father.
From Blue Sky, the studio behind the Ice Age films and Rio, and directed by Chris Wedge, the man who directed the first Ice Age film, the animation is the one thing that makes Epic watchable despite the poor writing and mostly just-functional voice casting. The forest environment, the atmosphere created by the lighting, the execution of the action scenes, absolutely everything technical about the film is superb. Even the early part of the end credits is set in a beautiful little animation sequence that makes you stay till the end. However, the fact that they had all that effort put into the animation and so little into developing a funny and heartwarming story at the core of it broke my heart more than once. It isn’t easy to tell someone that Epic is a film that can easily be missed; but that, unfortunately, is the sad truth of it.
This article is by guest author Pradeep Menon. Pradeep is a filmmaker and a dreamer. He loves books, rain, winters, tea and his parents. Cinema, however, is the only truth he believes in. He breathes and bleeds film, mostly in hues of saffron, white, green and blue. You can watch his short films at www.youtube.com/cyberpradeep.
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