There’s a lot to be said about the look of Epic, which is quite amazing. Reportedly, the animation artists spent thousands upon thousands of hours working on this movie and that’s not hard to believe. Much of the CG animation looks quite life-like at times. But while the movie is great to look at, it gives us a story which is less than inspired and not all that different from those good vs. evil tales we all grew up on.
During a visit with her estranged father Professor Bomba (Jason Sudeikis), 17-year old Mary Katherine (Amanda Seyfried) ends up getting miniaturized in the forest and meets up with the Leafmen, a group of warriors battling to save their home from the evil Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), who wants to destroy the forest because… well, because he can. In order to get back home, Mary Katherine (who goes by M.K.) has to help the Leafmen defeat the Boggans, which forces her to work with a variety of warriors and some talking animals.
Most of the characters in Epic are the kind of characters you expect to find in a story like this, and it ends up taking some of the fun out of the material. Take Nod (Josh Hutcherson) for example, a brave but reckless warrior who feels that the rules don’t always apply to him, kind of like Maverick from Top Gun. Nod’s leader, Ronin (Colin Farrell), berates him constantly and tells him he has to grow up quickly if he wants to stay alive. Does Nod eventually take Ronin’s advice? Does a bear… well, you know.
Epic does have some nice comic relief in the form of a slug named Mub (Aziz Ansari) and a snail named Grub (Chris O’Dowd). Seeing these two characters interact with one another gives the film some of its best moments, and Ansari and O’Dowd appear to be having a lot of fun. Ansari’s Mub is especially funny as he develops a big but hopeless crush on M.K. and seeks to make clear the difference between slugs and snails (Mub has got no shell slowing him down).
Another inspired casting choice that comes out of left field is Steven Tyler as Nim Galuu, a caterpillar who is kind of the Yoda of this story. Having the lead singer of Aerosmith and former judge of American Idol voicing this character seems a little weird at first, but once you see Nim in his element, it makes perfect sense. Nim also proves to be a party animal of sorts, and Tyler’s rocking personality proves to be a perfect fit for that.
The other actors like Farrell and Waltz acquit themselves well in roles that are stereotypical for a good vs. evil movie and Beyoncé is really just Beyoncé in her role of Queen Tara. She’s not bad, but you can tell it’s Beyoncé speaking which kind of takes you out of the moment.
One thing that takes away from the performances is the script itself. The dialogue is mostly banal and easily forgettable as characters spit out clichéd lines we have all heard countless times before. The filmmakers have put in a lot of work to give us a beautiful setting for the characters to inhabit and it would have been nice if they had spent more time working out the screenplay to where it doesn’t become your standard story of the good guys pouncing on the bad guys. The more they try to make these characters sound cool, the more average they become.
Lastly, I should mention that the 3D doesn’t do a whole lot. Yes, there are some cool shots every so often but there aren’t nearly enough of them to justify the extra dimension. You’re better off saving your money and seeing it in regular 2D.
There is a lot to admire about Epic and the kids are sure to love it, but adults won’t find the story to be all that different from the ones they grew up reading about. While tales of good versus evil can be a lot of fun, this one seems pretty ordinary and recycled, despite the incredible CG animation.
Epic is very pleasing on a visual level, but its story of good versus evil is no different than the ones we grew up reading about and watching.