“Epic” is a somewhat strangely titled animated film. When I hear that word applied to cinema, I tend to think of films that are made on a massive scale with extensive storylines such as “Lawrence of Arabia,” “Ben-Hur,” and “The Lord of the Rings.” The term can also be applied to animation, but when “Epic” was over, sadly it was not the first word that crossed my mind. Rather ironic given that animation gives filmmakers the freedom to create worlds, characters, and stories that they would have a hard time creating in real life.
The story involves a group of small beings who live in the forest. Among the characters we meet are Ronin (Voice of Colin Farrell), the leader of their army known as “The Leafmen,” Nod (Voice of Josh Hutcherson), a young soldier who likes to do his own thing, and Queen Tara (Voice of Beyonce Knowles), the life of the forest who has been tasked with choosing a successor from a number of pods grown in their community. They are at constant war with another group of small beings known as “The Boggans,” led by Mandrake (Voice of Christoph Waltz). The Boggans main goal is to destroy the forest, but as long as Queen Tara is around, she will always be able to regrow it.
Meanwhile, we are also introduced to some human characters. Bomba (Voice of Jason Sudeikis) has been trying to prove the existence of the small beings for years, an activity that has destroyed his marriage and made his relationship with his daughter, M.K. (Voice of Amanda Seyfried), somewhat awkward. While paying him a visit, she sees just how obsessed he is with his work, causing her to leave not long after she arrives. However, before she can, she happens to run into Queen Tara who has just been through a Boggan attack. In a desperate move, the Queen shrinks M.K. down to their size and asks her to take care of the pod that she has chosen. Along with Ronin and Nod, she sets out on the task which will determine the future of the forest.
“Epic” is not a bad animated film, but it is a pretty forgettable one. I think this problem stems from the fact that the story is so straightforward and simplified that nothing ends up sticking with you after the film is over. Sure, I realize that it’s supposed to be a film for kids, but it seems as though only very young kids would be able to be entertained by this streamlined narrative.
We find ourselves with a very basic good vs. evil story. The Boggans are determined to destroy the forest. Why? Well, because they’re the evil villains. No other reason. At least the heroes have the reason of wanting to save the forest because it’s their home. Aside from that, we get the story of Bomba trying to reconcile his relationship with his daughter, but this is given so little time and is resolved so quickly and easily that it misses the emotional impact that it’s going for.
This was actually a bit of a recurring problem throughout the film. Whenever it would bring up the deeper themes of relationships or lost loved ones, it would merely skim over them. It’s mentioned several times how Ronin and Nod’s dad were friends and how he had been a great guy who would have been able to teach his son a lot, but it never takes the time to explore it beyond the casual references. Going deeper into these themes would have been a great way for the film to stand out, not only as you’re watching it, but also in your memory later on.
As far as the animation goes, it’s a beautiful movie to look at. It gives you a different perspective on the world when we start to see things through the eyes of Nod, M.K., and the others. Mice, deer, and the very forest itself take on a whole new look when seen from the point of view of someone who’s only two inches tall. There are also multiple scenes of our heroes flying on the backs of birds that allow for this as well.
This leads right into my standard warning of making sure to see the film in 2D, that is if you intend to see the film regardless of what’s written here. This is a film filled with bright, vibrant colors that presents the hard work of several animators. It would be a great disservice to them to see it in a format that only serves to dull those colors, turning it into a dark mess. As I’ve always found myself asking: Why would you want to pay more to get a ruined picture?
While “Epic” doesn’t really live up to its title, you do get the gorgeous animation and some pretty good voice acting from Amanda Seyfried, Colin Farrell, and Josh Hutcherson. I wish I could say that it’s another example of a film that entertains both kids and adults, but as I’ve already mentioned, the narrative isn’t really the kind that would attract anyone past a fairly young age. Having a simplified narrative can sometimes be a good thing, but if it’s oversimplified like this, you just might find yourself forgetting it before it’s even over. 2.5/4 stars.
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