Since I haven't done a movie review in a while, I thought I'd share a few thoughts about the film. :)
When I first saw the previews, for "Epic", I thought it looked like an interesting film, but I wasn't sure how much of an overly-environmental message it would have. (I would define myself as a conservationist, not an environmentalist.) Once I read the positive review from Plugged In, I was interested in trying it out, and Hubby humored me. ;)
"Epic" features a large cast of characters, beautiful settings, and an interesting story about a tiny society of miniature people and animals who live in a forest. The beautiful score is composed by Danny Elfman, which was very exciting for me. I love Elfman's work, but he normally composes scores for Tim Burton movies, which I find a little too disturbing. It was nice to be able to enjoy his score without being creeped out. ;)
One of the first things I noticed about this movie was the shocking resemblance of the hero to a certain Disney hero we all know and love. Especially when you see him in the above picture. Doesn't he remind you of a certain charming rogue who accompanied a long-haired princess on an adventure to see some lanterns? ;)
But I'm getting ahead of myself. How about an introduction to some of the characters?
(played by Amanda Seyfried)
M.K. is a young girl who just lost her mother and is about to move in with her estranged father. He's spent his entire life researching what he believes to be a tiny kingdom of miniature people who live in the forest next to his house. His research and beliefs drove M.K.'s mother away when M.K. was still very young. Now, father and daughter are trying to reconnect, but M.K. feels that her father's research is more important to him than she is. Of course, when she ends up magically shrinking and meeting the very people her father has been trying to discover, things start to get interesting.
I found M.K.'s performance fun and natural overall, although at the beginning of the movie, some of the animation seemed rather stilted or lethargic. Then, some of her reactions would be almost too sudden or jerky, or her facial expressions didn't quite seem to match the vocal performance. This seemed to improve as the movie progressed, however, and I thought Amanda Seyfried's voice acting was lovely.
(played by Jason Sudeikis)
M.K.'s father Bomba is an eccentric man who has devoted his life to studying the forest surrounding his home. He is determined to find the tiny creatures he's been studying...to the point of obsession. When M.K. first arrives, he is distracted and awkward. M.K. seems to take second place to his work. In reality, M.K. is very important to him...but he has to figure out a way to get past all the distractions and tell her.
Bomba was funny and quirky but throughout his performance you could see glimpses of his uncertainty and his desire to make a connection with his daughter. Some of his animation was pretty jerky and sporadic, but for his character it worked. He was kind of a jerky and sporadic person (jerky as in movement, not personality). ;)
(played by Colin Farrell)
In reality, there is indeed a tiny kingdom in the forest just near Bomba's house. The community is made up of bugs, animals, living flower and plant people, and Leaf Men, the brave protectors of the Queen, who controls all life in the forest. The leader of the Leafmen (or at least, that was my understanding) is Ronin. A firm and intense warrior, he has devoted his life to protecting the Queen, who appears to be more than just a leader to him. Ronin is serious and disciplined and takes nothing lightly.
I found Ronin's character likable and Colin Farrell's performance believable. I tend to be drawn toward the rough, stern characters with tender hearts they bury deep inside themselves, though. ;)
(played by Josh Hutcherson)
Nod is Ronin's charge, left to his care after Nod's father died, and has a much lighter outlook on life. He's a fun-loving, easy-going guy who doesn't see why Ronin has to be so stern and serious all the time. As a result, their personalities often clash and they don't always see eye to eye. But both truly care for one another, even if they have a hard time admitting it.
Apparently this was Josh Hutcherson's first animated role. I thought he did very well overall, although there were a few times where his lines seemed a little stilted. I think some of that may have been due to the script. The story definitely didn't quite have the flow of a Pixar or Dreamworks animated film. One thing I did appreciate was the way Nod's character grew and matured throughout the course of the movie.
Okay, and just another side note here. Look at these pictures. Doesn't Nod look like he could be Flynn/Eugene's son or brother, or maybe a cousin? (I think you can also see a bit of Josh in the first photo.)
Although, as one of my Pinterest friends pointed out, "they just couldn't get his nose right". ;)
(played by Christopher Waltz)
Of course, every story has to have a villain. The main baddie in this story is Mandrake. Mandrake hates the beauty and life in the forest and wants nothing more than to make the entire place ugly and rotten like his own little corner of the world. He even has a stick that magically rots or kills everything living it touches.
I don't really have much to say about this dude except that he's despicable. I'm not usually a fan of the bad guys. His part was well-played and well-cast.
Grub the snail and Mub the slug
(played by Chris O'Dowd and Aziz Ansari)
Every story needs some comical sidekicks as well, it seems. In "Epic", most of the comic relief comes from Grub the snail and Mub the slug. These two friends are always teasing each other and the others around them. Mub develops a bit of a crush on M.K. and gets protective when anyone else seems to have an eye for her.
Some of Grub and Mub's parts were absolutely hilarious, but in some parts the humor seemed rather forced. We've seen so much of the funny sidekick element in the movies that sometimes it can be hard to come up with something new. Overall, though, I thought they added a fun, lighthearted touch to the movie. I also greatly appreciated the fact that they did not rely on crude comments to carry their humor.
(played by Beyonce Knowles)
Queen Tara is the one who helps all of the plants in the forest to grow and stay beautiful, but it is almost time for her reign to end. On this particular day, she is to choose a special "pod" which she will transfer all her power to. When the pod blooms by the light of the full moon, it will reveal the new queen. If things do not go according to plan, all life in the forest will be lost.
I have to say that by the time the queen had spoken a few lines, I found myself thinking, "This part must be played by someone famous who isn't known for her acting." Nothing personal against Beyonce, but I felt that her performance just fell flat. It felt forced and unnatural. My husband pointed out that he felt the animation didn't really compliment her voice acting the way it could have, either, and I have to agree. The whole first scene with Queen Tara didn't quite do it for me. I do tend to be pretty picky about acting and animation, so not everyone may come away with the same feeling as I did. And I did appreciate the Queen's spirit and the sacrifice she made for her people.
There were many other characters in the movie, but to go through them all would take entirely too long. :) I hope this at least gives you a rough idea of some of the main characters you'll meet.
Aside from the beautiful score, one of the other things I loved was the breathtaking background animation of this film. Everything was so luminous and lifelike (well, except for Mandrake's lair, of course). ;) I tried to find a few pictures that gave an idea of the beauty of "Epic":
As I mentioned, we saw the 2D version of this movie, so I can't really give you an idea of how the 3D was. I think I've said this before, but I'm personally not a big fan of the whole 3D thing, so I probably wouldn't have much to say about it anyway. ;) Between the added expense and the fact that it makes me dizzy, I'm perfectly happy to stick with 2D. One thing I did notice (much to my relief) was that there weren't any obvious "oh, this must be for the 3D" shots, if you know what I mean. ;) You know, like the slow-motion parts or the stuff whizzing toward the screen in an obvious move to get the audience jumping out of their seats. ;}
The movie is based on the book "The Leaf Men", also known as "The Leaf Men and the Brave Good Bugs" by William Joyce. Interestingly enough, he is also the author of the "Guardians of Childhood" series on which the Dreamworks film "Legend of the Guardians" was based, as well as "A Day with Wilbur Robinson", the book that was the basis for Disney's "Meet the Robinsons". It seems like the original story of the Leaf Men was much more simplistic and less dramatic, judging from the few pages I was able to sample on Amazon. I'd be interested in reading it sometime.
So here are some of my overall thoughts on the movie:
Negative Elements: To be honest, most of the complaints I have are regarding either the script or the performances. There really was almost no objectionable content in this movie at all aside from a few minor things. There was one kiss between characters (which I didn't find objectionable but I know some of you do), and M.K. wore a short skirt, but she had leggings underneath. It was so refreshing to see such a clean movie. There were a few parts that were a bit intense (it would still be way too scary for my children), but I didn't find it nearly as frightening as some of the other children's movies out there. My main complaints were some clunky lines or poor acting that didn't contribute to the movie. I also felt that the storytelling wasn't as tight as it could have been, and some parts of the story didn't flow as much as the Dreamworks and Pixar films I love. And as I mentioned above, I didn't care for some of the character animation for M.K. and Queen Tara.
Positive Elements: There was virtually no toilet humor aside from two mild references to the backside of a slug, a mention of a slug's slime trail, and watching a slug enjoy his "blubber". There were a few mild name-calling issues and one use of the word "butt" (a word that was one of my mom's pet peeves and is now one of mine), but no swearing or other crude language. The animation was overall very beautifully done and the score was lovely. I also appreciated the fact that there was a little bit of romance, but it wasn't rushed just to give the story a typical happy ending. There was one kiss that probably wouldn't have happened if circumstances had been different, but considering the way things ended it made sense (you'll have to watch the movie to find out what I'm talking about). ;) I was pleased to find that there wasn't a heavy "save the earth" message like I thought there might be originally, although I suppose it's the type of story that people could apply that way if they wanted to. The messages I came away with were the importance of family and teamwork.
Would I Recommend It?
Even though there were some things with the story and the animation that I wish they had done better, I still enjoyed this film. I don't believe it will necessarily become a new favorite, but it's definitely worth watching at least once. If nothing else, I would encourage supporting a film so free of crude humor with a good message.
If you'd like a more detailed review, you can check out Plugged In's Christian based review HERE.
Have any of you seen "Epic" yet? What did you think?
P.S. To get a sample of the wonderful score by Danny Elfman, I've linked to three of my favorite tracks: