Epic (2013)

Epic (2013)

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"Sorry, I'm not really into slugs."
“Sorry, I’m not really into slugs.”

Twitter Plot Summary: Modern girl MK is shrunk down to an inch tall where she helps save the forest folk from the evil Mandrake and his minions.

Genre: Animation/Adventure/Family/Fantasy

Director: Chris Wedge

Key Cast: Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Colin Farrell, Christoph Waltz, Beyonce Knowles, Steven Tyler

Five Point Summary:

1. Okay, nice opening, let’s see where it goes…

2. …oh, it went there. Yawn.

3. Mandrake, you are so delightfully evil.

4. Steven Tyler as a font of all knowledge? Srsly? 

5. One day, all MacGuffins will be outlawed. On pain of death.

Given that it’s gone for the lofty title of Epic, you’d probably expect a Lord of the Rings-style story that would be apt for the moniker. As it happens it’s a story we’ve seen many times before – good and evil are fighting for a MacGuffin that will either save or destroy the forest. So there’s the less than subtle eco message right there – we must save the forests or the world will die! So, our protagonist is a regular person-sized person called MK. She’s visiting her Dad who’s a wee bit loopy and insists that tiny people are living in the forest, who because of their relative size live at a slightly accelerated rate compared to the normal world. After her Dad heads out into the forest again, MK decides to leave but just happens to step into the middle of a battle between the Leafmen and the Boggans (can you tell which ones are the good guys? CAN YOU?!). She’s shrunk down to their size by Queen Tara (played by Beyonce Knowles) and thus the adventure doth begin!

The saving grace is Chris O’Dowd and Aziz Ansari as a wisecracking snail and slug accordingly. They elevate the story from its somewhat unambitious climbs – if this film was equivalent to a mountain expedition, it would be at best the equivalent to reaching Base Camp 1 – enough effort has been put in to justify doing it but it’s nothing to write home about. In fact it pretty much trots out all of the typical animated family feature stereotypes – there’s the dashing young anti-hero type in Josh Hutcherson’s Nod, the single-minded villain who will not stop until he succeeds in his quest to destroy everything, the slightly traumatised leader-type who has issues (of What Car? Magazine, possibly), the reluctant hero/heroine who’s only there as a victim of circumstance, and the obligatory comic relief.

Whilst O’Dowd and Ansari cover the comedic side of proceedings, Christoph Waltz adds the scares as the obligatory big bad, the rat skin-wearing Mandrake. He’s possibly the most fearsome villain I’ve seen in an animated feature since Aladdin’s Jafar, but with 25% more nastiness. Whilst his motives never really change – destroy the forest! DESTROY THE FOREST! – his motivations for doing so are in part fueled by the loss of his son. That’s the obligatory bit of villain-related characterisation you’re getting, don’t expect anything more than that. Im also not sure why people are so negative towards Colin Farrell – he’s not exceptional but his voice suits the weariness that Ronin feels.

Mandrake. Not just a pretty face.
Mandrake. Not just a pretty face.

The main focus of course is on MK and her relationship with her Dad. They’ve drifted apart over the years and, since the death of MK’s Mum (I don’t recall this being explained in any detail in the film) this is her final attempt at reconciling with what’s left of her family. Naturally, as her Dad is a mad scientist type and constantly blabbering on about the tiny forest people, it’s clear that they both have a lot of issues to talk through. I also have to give kudos to the writers for including a three legged dog – ignoring the obvious metaphor that the dog represents the dysfunctional family, it’s just nice to see an “imperfect” pet (I disagree with this term, but I can’t think of any other way of describing it) getting ample screen time and not being the target of a plethora of disability-related jokes. The next step – disabled people who are integral to the story.

Plus points go for the 3D (as I’ve said before, animation usually gets 3D right), and for the number of characters they are now able to animate on screen at any one time. In this respect it was suitably epic, although maybe more of an actual war between the two sides would have been more appropriate. The animation as well is fantastic – computer animation has really come into its own nowadays. Focusing on a small group is all well and good, but when you’re doing animation and the sky’s the limit, you can go a little crazy if need be. It’s not so much epic as “distinctly average” then, but it’s amusing enough for a single viewing. Any additional viewings will most likely be dictated by whether or not you have children. If like me you don’t have kids then repeat viewings may prove unlikely. Still, it was entertaining enough while it lasted.

Favourite scene: The initial attack of the Boggans, appearing from underneath the tree bark. Most impressive.

Quote: “I’m going to destroy the forest. But I’m only going to do it once, so try to pay attention.”

Silly Moment:  A tiny team including Nod,

Score: 3/5

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