The world of animation has set a very high standard for itself thanks to films like “Toy Story” and more recently, “Wreck-It Ralph.” Films like these pile on the pressure for any future animation to surpass mediocrity. While “Epic” meets the high standards of stunning visuals and may be a fun adventure for kids, it ultimately fails to create characters that leave a lasting impression on audiences.
Based on the book The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs by William Joyce, “Epic” tells the tale of M.K. (Amanda Seyfried), a teenager sentenced to live with her dad Bomba (Jason Sudeikis) after her mother dies. M.K. doesn’t want to live with her dad because she thinks he’s crazy and never has any time for her. Bomba is a scientist who has spent his entire life trying to prove that the forest holds a whole other form of living beings; ones who cannot be seen.
The beginning of the film splits itself between our world and the Leaf Men’s world. You see, Leaf Men, namely Ronin (Colin Farrell) and Nod (Josh Hutcherson) are the protectors of the natural world and guards to Queen Tara (Beyoncé), who is the source of all forest life. M.K., of course, thinks her dad is crazy and doesn’t believe a word he says. How can there be tiny people living in the forest, right? She comes to believe it when she joins their ranks after a meeting with Queen Tara, whose attempt at passing on her powers to the next flower pod are interrupted by the bitter and unhappy Mandrake (Christoph Waltz) who plans on destroying the forest and taking over.
The story is simple enough. The heroine goes on an epic adventure in order to save the forest from dying. It’s almost as if “Epic” follows some sort of to-do list in order to tell its story. The to-do list apparently must have a father/son type of relationship, have the two leads fall for each other, and use the story to make a point about the environment in general. In the end, the movie only succeeds with making an environmental statement along the lines of “Avatar.” The fact that the antagonists are damaging the forest brings to mind the fact that we do the same thing every day. Maybe the Leaf Men should try and protect their forest from humans as well.
Colin Farrell, Jason Sudeikis, and Christoph Waltz are the standouts amongst a cast that boasts non-actors (namely Beyoncé) who might want to think about sticking to their original craft. A lot of the actors’ talents are wasted on a generally weak script and lackluster characters. It’s a shame that actors like Waltz couldn’t flex their muscles on something more worthwhile. Sudeikis’s character is the one who’s most fleshed out and the only one worth feeling anything for. The romance between M.K. and Nod feels tacked on and underwhelming, as though it’s supposed to be there just for the sake of being there.
Did “Epic” have any good aspects? Of course it did. The graphics and detail to the environment and its ever-changing nature is gorgeous. The chase scenes between the Leaf Men and the antagonists are superbly executed and make you want to find a bird, hop on, and take flight. The slug side-kicks are decently funny and Bomba is entertaining as he runs back and forth, excited about his work.
Unfortunately, the good aspects don’t balance out the overall uninspiring film. “Epic” tries to convey some kind of emotional depth but doesn’t quite get there. The issue is the story has too many things going on in terms of characters and action balance. It tries to be more than just a tale of thrilling adventure, but doesn’t really stop to give the audience time to love and root for the characters. For the kids, the simplicity and somewhat clichéd story will keep them entertained, excited, and happy. But if you’re not taking any kids then you may want to skip out on this one because it won’t hold your interests like other animations of the past. It’s not that “Epic” is a bad movie. It’s just not a really great one, either.