Dictionary.com defines the word “epic” as “1. noting or pertaining to a long poetic composition, usually centered upon a hero, in which a series of great achievements or events is narrated in elevated style, 2. resembling or suggesting such poetry, 3. heroic; majestic; impressively great, 4. of unusually great size or extent.” Today’s movie, despite its title, fits exactly none of those descriptions. It is not a long poetic composition, it has no elevated style, and nothing in it is anywhere near unusually great size or extent, and if it were any of those, it would lose its target audience in a heartbeat. As for impressive … well, read on.
Epic is a computer-animated children’s film that tells the story of a teenage girl named Mary Katherine. In this movie, she gets shrunk and dropped into a world of tiny forest warriors trying to protect their home from evil tiny forest warriors. Is there anything special about this film, or is it just another in a line of so-so animated films? Well, let’s take a look at the trailer and find out. (To follow along, go to YouTube and watch “Epic Trailer 2 – 2013 Movie – Official [HD]”.)
So who stars in this film? Mary Katherine, or M. K. for short, is played by Amanda Seyfried, who has acted in such films as Letters to Juliet, Gone, and Les Miserables. Her friend/love interest Nod is played by Josh Hutcherson from Bridge to Teribithia, Journey to the Center of the Earth, and The Hunger Games. Colin Farrell plays the tiny general Ronin; Farrell’s other films include Phone Booth and the Total Recall remake. Other actors include Christoph Waltz, Beyoncé Knowles, and Pitbull. Yes, I said Beyoncé Knowles and Pitbull. I’m guessing they ran out of actors and started calling up every celebrity they knew to star in this film.
The director is Chris Wedge, whose other movies have been Ice Age and Robots. Both were 20th Century Fox CG films, and at least one was surprisingly good (I can’t speak for Robots, not having seen it). So I’ll do my best to give this film the benefit of the doubt.
Our trailer opens as M. K. moves into what appears to be the Munster mansion after heavy renovation (although they missed a couple of giant cobwebs). Despite having childhood memories of her father telling her stories, she apparently hasn’t seen the man in a long time since she’s tiptoeing into the house as if she were about to ask a stranger for help changing a flat tire. Speaking of those stories, M. K. tells us how her dad always talked about a hidden world of brave warriors that protected our world. This was, of course, before they took him away to the mental institution. “Just because you haven’t seen something doesn’t mean it’s not there,” Dad tells his daughter. So just because I haven’t seen the Doctor in real life doesn’t mean he doesn’t exist. There’s still hope!
We see Dad investigating his theories, and I can only assume he used his superhuman reflexes to capture a live hummingbird complete with saddle and bridle. He also spots—gasp—birds flying in the sky! That never happens! But apparently, this absentminded professor stays out too long, and as a thunderstorm rolls in, M. K. goes looking for him. Yes, run outside looking for the responsible adult amid the lightning bolts and high winds. This is clearly the smartest and safest idea. Children, pay attention!
But instead of her father, M. K. finds a glowing pod of some kind. She grabs it and is jerked into the air, shrunk, pulled this way and that, and eventually knocked unconscious. Remind me never to catch a firefly ever again. When she wakes up, she is face to face with what she calls a talking snail. The creature corrects her, calling himself a slug. “No shell over here, baby,” he says. Whatever; the appropriate reaction at this point is to run screaming for the nearest salt shaker.
In addition to talking slugs, M. K. finds the forest populated by the cast of Silly Symphonies: Flowers and Trees, as well as an army of unimaginatively-named “Leaf Men.” Because, you know, they dress in leaves. Makes sense, right? They fight against Mandrake and his army of imps, who want to destroy the forest because … um, evil. Seriously, Mandrake’s one line in this trailer is “I am going to destroy the forest, but I’m only going to do it once, so try to pay attention.” Can you get any more callous for the sake of being callous than that? Isn’t it nice when our villains are stereotypical and one-dimensional? It gives the actors so much to work with and is so much fun to watch.
As the action montage begins, our heroes run from the most fearsome of all creatures: MOOOUUUUUUUUUSE!!!! Everyone, run! He will eat our cheese! Leaf Men and goblins fight aerial battles through the forest canopy. The bark of a tree comes to life as an army of tiny people with shields. And through it all, Dad is watching via security cameras. I hope you people weren’t trying to hide, because you’re doing a terrible job of it. M. K. wakes up, still woozy, talking about a dream she had about talking slugs and tiny people, only to find talking slugs and tiny people staring at her. Ah, yes, the moment when you wake up from a dream to discover you weren’t actually dreaming. That’s something we’ve never seen before. And the trailer ends with tiny M. K. trying to attract her father’s attention and instead getting the attention of her eager pug dog. PUUUUUUUUG!!! Everyone run! It will kiss us to death with its infinite slobber! Okay, that one’s actually somewhat frightening.
So do I recommend this movie? Eh, maybe. Admittedly, the film has some great animation and some good actors, and the action scenes are fun to watch. But the story feels familiar, and not in a good way. Nothing about it feels new or different, and the characters all seem flat and not very interesting. It may grab your kid’s attention, but nothing about it stands out to me. If you can’t wait for Monsters University or Despicable Me 2, sure, take your kids to see it, but I don’t think it’ll be the best animated movie coming out this summer. Let me emphasize that this opinion is based on what I saw in the trailer; I could be wrong and this movie might be great, but that’s not the way the trailer portrayed it, and therefore the trailer failed at its job. Based on the trailer, this movie should have been called Average.
Epic is owned by 20th Century Fox.