I’m going to be plainly honest here. There were two movies that scared me away from watching them while I was in school. The first was The Croods with its really lackluster trailer, and the second was Epic.
Just the title. EPIC. We’re in the age where terms like Epic are so overused and homogenized it’s sickening, so I unfairly decided to save my money and not see it in theatres. While on vacation though I got the chance to watch it, and seeing as one of my resolutions is to watch all the most recent animated movies Epic was on that list. But was Epic really… epic or would it be another in the line of what I call “2013: The Year of Standards?”
Epic is the story of a Mary Katherine or M.K.(Amanda Seyfried) for short, as she visits her crazy estranged dad called Bomba(Jason Sudeikis) (seriously?) as she is trying to cope with the death of her mother by reconnecting with him. Now that could be a very dramatic little slice of life story, which explores depression, the strained relationship a father and daughter can have and all sorts of more mature subject matter. Forget that crap, there’s a tribe of little leaf people called Leafmen and their queen, played by Beyoncé, is choosing pod that will become the new heir and the next queen of the forest. Although her top warriors protect her, lead by our one important of our only important side character Ronin (Colin Farrell), the evil Mandrake (Christoph Waltz), and his army of Boggins kill the queen and the pod falls into M.K.’s hands. Through leaf magic M.K. gets shrunk down to the size of the leaf men with the task to protect the pod if she ever wants to be normal size again. But MK has nothing to fear you see, she has a wise cracking pretty boy named Nod, voiced by Josh Hutcherson, and two annoying as hell slugs there to protect her.
Now from all that you can tell a lot happens in this movie and for the most part I feel Epic was juggling these plotlines very well but sadly though it just doesn’t have the creative spark necessary to really hit this out of the park. Let’s just go one plot point at the time and I’ll explain what I mean.
Plotline #1: M.K., her dad and depression
The first 15 minutes of the movie really help setup the disconnected relationship of this father and daughter. But it doesn’t paint either of these two in an overly negative light. M.K. is just trying to connect but just can’t put up with her father’s delusions about the Leafmen and “Bomba” is just to absorbed in discovering the secrets of the Leafmen he’s completely ostracized himself from everybody. Or to put it in standard terms HE’S QUIRKY!! The strongest parts of this movie are M.K.’s father and her just struggling to find common ground again to form a relationship.
But in the end it’s all underplayed to such a boring basic degree. Yes, it’s a kid’s movie but I’m talking to a degree where the moral can almost be conveyed as awful, like the moral “you just have to dream to make your dreams come true” from A Troll in Central Park. Here’s what I got from the movie’s end. “Everyone is connected in some way and if you lose your connection with your close family, you just have to prove their delusional fantasy is right to find common ground.” Real nice moral there. But am I being unfair? No. M.K. after an hour at home was going to quit and runaway. The only reason she reconciled with her dad is because she got shrunk and his delusions were proven correct.
If anything the moral of “We’re all connected” that the movie nails into our heads barely makes sense in this context so overall the movie was building up to the cheapest payoff.
Plotline #2: The Leafmen: Nod and Ronin
Okay here’s the rub of these two characters’ relationship. Nod is the brash student. Ronin is the teacher as well as Nod’s dead dad’s best friend. Now copy and paste this line into several moments in the script and you got their plotline. It feels like nothing but repeating dialogue.
Nod: “You can’t tell me what to do.”
Ronin: “That thing you’re doing reminds me of your dad.”
Nod: “*sigh* yeah I know, but I’m still a cocky smartass.”
This plotline is like clockwork, anybody who has watched any adventure movie with a mentor and student character dynamic will be able to recite everything they say. Standard. Boring. Needed to be either expanded upon or cut entirely.
Plotline #3: M.K. and Nod’s “Romance”
Don’t you just love that story-telling trope where the two leads talk for a minute and then immediately fall in love? I’m so-so on it but truthfully that’s not really my issue with these two. It’s just that M.K. and Nod’s romantic chemistry is about as stimulating as two rocks. These two barely get any screen time to build even a basic friendship, let alone a romance. And the fact the movie was trying to make them the couple of the movie is both sad and rather insulting. It would have been fine if the two just were just friends, if anything I think that would have helped the movie’s moral. A leaf-men and a human, separated by size but they’ll always be friends. That actually can be rather relatable, in theme not in context, and can make their separation more sad. But as it stands, whatever, they spend about 4 minutes talking and then WUV!! <3
Plotline #4: The Slugs
Good sweet god. These two needed to be dumped in salt and shown shriveling up to tiny little corpses. THEY ARE NOT FUNNY. At all. Not a single joke of there’s worked. I didn’t even chuckle at the sheer awfulness of their performances. They are your stock, tubby and skinny sidekicks with matching boring personalities to boot. However they’re maybe the most ball-bustingly annoying characters in this movie, but at least both of their side plots are equally as horrendously written. Oh wait… that’s a bad thing. One of them wants to be a knight and the other has a crush on M.K. As cliche plots elements it’s fine but because of the horrible execution what was once fine is again ball-bustingly annoying.
Plotline #5: Mandrake
Christoph Waltz acts like he is having a lot of fun with the role, putting a lot of personality into all his lines. The writers even wrote him a murdered son plot point to give him valid motivation to take the pod and destroy the leaf-men. But when all is said and done Mandrake is just the most blandest environmentalist villain possible. His powers are rotting things, he talks constantly about destroying the “light” of the forest, and that whole murdered son plot point just leads to him just screaming and destroying a tree at one point. After that, never mentioned again.
Wow that was a lot to get through but let’s just round off and say what’s the biggest issue with this film’s writing and characters? It’s basically a half-hearted attempt at a high budget Ferngully but half hearted in the sense that they don’t focus heavily on the environment aspect. Instead it’s just flipping through the writing trope handbook and doing the bare minimum to make a coherent narrative but with a lack of investment in anything that’s going on.
The best part of the movie is definitely the visuals. Blue Sky Studios definitely has a talent for really clean colorful imagery; every second is filled to the brim with beautiful imagery. As for the character models, they were very slender and clean which gave all the leaf-men this doll look to them. But the models are still very detailed and dynamic, with every wrinkle and facial feature coming through beautifully. Although for me, the pretty pictures can’t distract me from the clearly hollow narrative. Overall the story is just plain predictable, boring and underwritten with stock unrelatable to annoying characters, and it’s all trying to hide behind the very pretty visuals. Epic maybe VISUALLY epic but the story was just being plain standard and worst of all, bad.