Saturday, May 25, 2013


Epic is a colorful, fanciful animated adventure about a world of miniscule Leafmen, bugs, dandelions, pinecones, and such, whose job it is to safeguard a mystical pod that will stop the encroaching blight spread by the evil demon of decay, Mandrake (the magical voice of Christoph Waltz), who leads an army of noisome creatures that look like gray tubers.

Epic evokes Photographing Fairies and the Cottingley fairy hoax of 1917 as a mad scientist, called Bomba, (Jason Sudeikis) obsessively employs all sorts of contraptions to prove the existence of this Lilliputian world. It calls Avatar to mind when the armor-clad Leafmen of the forest, flying astride hummingbirds, do aerial battle with the crud creatures mounted on crows. I also thought of Tarzan and the Ant Men when Bomba’s neglected, motherless daughter, Mary Katherine or M.K. (voiced by Amanda Seyfried), gets shrunk to Leafman size to take her destined part in helping the good guys carry the pod to where it is supposed to bloom, christen a new queen, and bring rebirth to the forest. You might also find yourself thinking of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids as M.K., Nod (Josh Hutcherson), and Ronin (Colin Farrell) evade gigantic hazards in M.K.’s house.

I’ve always been fascinated by stories set in little worlds dwarfed by a gigantic human-sized setting – when I was little, I spent days and days setting up epic battles with hundreds of plastic soldiers, cowboys, and Indians – so the concept and the look of this film had my attention from the beginning.

But after an exhilarating opening sequence in which we first see the tiny Leafmen flying hummingbirds, follow them into an aerial dogfight through a treetop jungle, and then are taken out of that world when one of the crud creatures splats onto the windshield of the taxi bringing Mary Katherine to live with her wacky dad, the pace slows down and only dazzles intermittently. The film is especially slowed down by too much comic relief provided by a snail (Aziz Ansari) and a slug (Chris O’Dowd), but the film delivers its victorious climax that will elicit a "Yes!" from the kids, and it provides enough visual thrills to make it worthwhile.

Still, when it comes to the climactic aerial battle between the last regiment of Leafmen and a swarm of bats, the encounter is not as epic as it could have been. With the state of CGI art these days, why constrict your epic film with time spent on dialogue or the antics of slimy grubs? Why not open it up into the expansive possibilities of its setting and conflict? How to Train Your Dragon, for example, takes the visuals of its epic world and battles to the very limit. Epic is quite imaginative, but with a little more imagination, it could have been truly epic.

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