Blue Sky Studio’s CGI animated feature “Epic” is a visually sumptuous film about a girl who encounters fairies in a Connecticut forest. “Epic” is directed by Chris Wedge, and stars Amanda Seyfried as M. K., Colin Farrell as Ronin, Josh Hutcherson as Nod, and Beyoncé as Queen Tara. Its story is based on author and illustrator William Joyce’s book “The Leaf Men.”
The reviews of “Epic” have been mixed so far. Some have been pretty harsh; but this film deserves better than some critics have given it. Although it is definitely lightweight summertime entertainment, “Epic” has stunning artwork and character design, is beautifully animated, is well acted (for the most part), and has all the elements that a fairy story should have.
Cinematographer Renato Falcão, art director Mike Knapp, set decorator Isaac Holze, production designers William Joyce and Greg Couch, the art department, and the animation team have created an entrancing fairyland full of wonder and beauty. Every element—each leaf, each fairy and flower jinn, each of the humans, and especially M. K.’s three-legged pug dog—builds a world that is breathtakingly enchanting and magical.
The movie’s voice cast brings a lot of talent and experience to creating “Epic”’s world. Particularly notable are Aziz Ansari as the slug Mub and Chris O’Dowd as the snail Grub. In addition, Oscar-winner Christoph Waltz brings a believable intensity to the role of driven villain Mandrake, leader of the dark fairies called the Boggans. The only weak spot in the film comes from Beyoncé, whose presentation of Queen Tara lacks the ethereal quality a fairy queen should have. A more experienced actress, such as Vanessa Williams, would have made a more believable fairy queen.
“Epic” also has all the elements that a fairy story should have. In the classic model fairy story, a human enters Faerie, which is inherently a dangerous place; she encounters the creatures that live there, who can be malignant or benign; and at the end she returns to her own world, forever changed by the encounter. Like “The Wizard of Oz” and “The Hobbit,” “Epic” presents the encounter with Faerie as a voyage into another land, in which the protagonist is in peril because of where she is. As a result of the journey she is forever changed.
So “Epic” is a highly enjoyable film and a feast for the eyes. It’s a classic fairy tale that follows the model of a traditional fairy story. It’s action-packed, charming, funny, and touching. Keeping in mind that it sometimes serves critics better to be harsh than to be nice, “Epic” really deserves more credit than many reviewers are willing to give it.
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