Sunday, May 26, 2013

Epic (SIFF 2013) - Movie Review

Now that the eco-trilogy of Ferngully, Avatar, and Epic is complete...oh wait...its not a trilogy? Oh. Well, never mind all that. Either way, Epic does fit in nicely as a kid friendly tale that contains a not so subtle message about protecting forests and having respect for nature. Twentieth Century Fox Animation continues its long time collaboration with director Chris Wedge (Ice Age, Robots) and assembles an all star cast including Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, and Christoph Waltz.

We start with the young Mary Katherine (Seyfried), she likes to be called M.K., arriving at her estranged father's house which is located way out in the middle of a secluded forest. She is being reunited with him after her mother suddenly passed away and she is left with no other option but to return to the parent that seemed to always care more about his scientific discoveries than holding a family together. This all consuming life's work has consisted of attempting to prove the existence of a secret civilization that has been thriving for as long as the forest is old.

This miniature world within the forest is populated with tiny beings and talking creatures both good and evil who have confronted each other in a timeless struggle to control their natural surroundings. As the evil Mandrake (Waltz) prepares his army for an all out assault on Queen Tara (Beyoncé Knowles) and her kingdom, M.K. finds herself literally thrown into the middle of an epic struggle that will decide the fate of the forest for generations to come.

Blue Sky studios along with director Chris Wedge has become a very well known commodity based on the strength of their Ice Age animated franchise and Epic marks the first time they have installed a female lead in one of their features (Just like Pixar's Merida in last year's Brave!). With a strong environmental message and a solid story, this movie will definitely appeal to its target audience which mainly consists of younger kids and the parents who get dragged along to the theater with them.

There is plenty of action, lots of laughs, and the quality of the 3D animation is flat out gorgeous, but it does all feel just a little too familiar as there are several similarities to Brave that can't be denied. First time female lead, beautifully rendered forest environments, silly animal characters, and a magical mythology are all the key elements that made Pixar's movie as much of a success as it was. I will say, the story overall is different enough where the casual movie goer won't really care or even notice these similar attributes.

While Epic has some fun moments and the story moves along nicely to its exciting conclusion, I wouldn't say that it will come close to the level of success that the Ice Age franchise has achieved. Just as Brave proved last year, no matter how good the animation is or how many big name stars are thrown into the cast, the quality of the story is what will keep a movie from being one that you forget not long after you see it. That being said, you should give this movie a chance and definitely check it out in 3D as the visual feast thrown at you on the screen is worth the price of admission on its own.

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